Category Archives: Tutor Spotlight

Coordinator Spotlight: Sookyung Kim

2013-08-06_19.54.22-1Sookyung started working for Tutors for All over two years ago as a tutor at the MGH Youth Scholars program. She has always been dedicated to helping our students, first a volunteer tutor, then as a lead tutor last semester, and now as the MGH Program Coordinator. We talked with her to learn more about her background and what she’s taken away from her T4A experience.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am originally from South Korea, and came to the states after graduating from high school. Once I arrived I studied English at a language school in Boston for 9 months. Then, I continue studying at a local community college for a year and a half. After that, I  transferred to UMass Amherst to finish my undergraduate degree. When I’m not studying, I love to practice Kendo, a Japanese sword-fighting martial art.

2. How did you hear about Tutors for All?
After graduation, I got a job as a research technician at Mass General Hospital. I started looking for local volunteer opportunities around the hospital, and that’s when I heard about the MGH Youth Scholars program. I have always been interested in teaching so I decided to join T4A. I remember on my first day at the job, I showed up extremely over-dressed and in heels – I was so embarrassed!

3. What is the best part about working for Tutors for All?
The best part of my job is getting to know the students over the semester. MGH Youth Scholars program fosters a relationship with students over the course of a semester not only as a tutor to a student but also as a coach and scholar. It’s very rewarding when I know I’m able to support my students and guide them in the direction that I believe is best for them. Not only can you see how much they grow and develop stronger academic skills, but I see myself growing with the experience as well. For example, when two of my students Monica and Dorene found out they aced their final exam in spite of the struggles they had at the beginning of the semester, it not only strengthened their belief that we can make a change when we put in the effort, but also reminded me of how much I feel personally connected to the students, excited for them, and proud of their continual work. In addition, most of my students go out of their way to thank me for the academic help and support I provide them. For example, coaches and scholars know when the last day for us to be together as a part of Tutors for All at MGH program is, and Chang Liu came to our session to personally thank me even though he had other commitments for that day.

4. What plans do you have next?
I have worked for a while at a basic academic laboratory and now I am applying to MD/PhD programs, a training program for those interested in becoming a physician scientist. This is a great opportunity for someone who wants to do research, but work with patients as well. During the application process I was asked to list any meaningful activities I do, and T4A was the first thing that came to my mind!

5. How will you take what you have learned working for T4A into your future career?
When I’m doing research, I often find many mistakes in my experiments. These mistakes are always difficult to find, so you have to keep trying until you’re able to get some success. By working for T4A, I have gained so much positive energy from helping my students. That energy pushes me forward in my research and helps me stay positive. I could also see myself having the same dynamics I do now with my students as I will with my patients when I become a physician scientist, getting motivated as I witness positive changes I make in my patients and staying positive despite hurdles I am most likely confront during my research.

Meet Our Dedicated Tutor: Elsie Mayo

Elsie Mayo is a fourth year student in the 3+1 Economics and Public Policy program at Simmons College. Last year she received her Bachelor’s degree in Economics, and she will earn her Master’s degree in Public Policy this summer. As if she isn’t busy enough, Elsie has been a tutor for our programs over the past 4 years, and is now the lead tutor at two of our sites, Codman Middle School and Tobin. Elsie’s hard work and dedication to T4A is truly appreciated and we wanted to share her inspiring story.

Elsie (left) with her mom at Tobin

Elsie (left) with her mom at Tobin

1. Tell us about yourself: where are you from, what school do you go to, what do you like to do in your free time?
I live in Washington D.C, but currently I am in Boston working on getting my Master’s degree in Public Policy at Simmons College. I am involved in several extracurricular activities, including the Colleges of the Fenway Dance Project and the Black Student Organization at Simmons. In my free time I love to sing in the gospel choir here at Simmons and back home. I also enjoy watching Netflix and spending as much time with my mom as possible whenever she comes to Boston to visit.

2. What made you want to join Tutors for All and why have you kept returning throughout the years?
Growing up I was always good at helping others with math because I was able to understand concepts quickly and find better ways to teach those concepts to my peers. When I heard about Tutors for All, I thought it was a wonderful program because it gave students the individual attention they needed. This is something that can’t be accomplished in a classroom where students learn differently. I knew this program would be the perfect fit for me and once I started I immediately fell in love.

3. What is the most rewarding part about your job?
Last year I tutored a student at Codman Academy, and earlier this year I saw that same student volunteer to be a tutor for the younger students at Codman Middle School. She had mastered her mathematical skills so much so that she felt confident enough to become a tutor. Just being able to build connections with the students and watch them grow throughout the semester is by far the most rewarding part about my job.

4. What’s your favorite memory while working with Tutors for All?
Our first week back after winter break, I went to Codman Middle School for a tutoring session. Many of the students had gone on a field trip that day so I was expecting them to be drained after a long day and not enthusiastic about tutorial. When they finally arrived for session, all I saw were smiles. The students were go glad to see us tutors and eager to start the semester. This was just a small reminder of why I always decide to come back each year.

5. What are your future career goals?
With my degrees I intend to work with youth in public schools. More specifically, I want to work in direct services and make sure students have all the resources they need to get into college academically prepared, to be successful in college, and to graduate.

6. What have you learned through working for Tutors for All? How will you take what you have learned and use it in your career?
Last year I had a conversation with one of my students who expressed to me that he wouldn’t get accepted into college because he was simply an African-American kid from a low-income family. Having come from the same background, I felt it was my obligation to assure him that if he works hard, he too can go to college and advance in his career despite all odds. This is one of the many reasons I have chosen the career path I intend to take.

7. Do you have any advice for current and future tutors?
Have fun and enjoy it, because if you enjoy it then your students will enjoy it as well. Be patient, be fair, be kind, and make the experience a good one for you and the students.

Tutor Spotlight: Russell Thomson

12188397_132812243743582_2067484692_n (1) 12202099_132812200410253_141794553_n (1)Russell Thomson, a tutor at Maurice Tobin K-8 School program, is a senior at Boston University majoring in biomedical engineering (“As a kid I loved reading sci-fi so I figured this was my best chance to bio-engineer dragons,” he says). Though he’s only been with us a short period of time, he has already formed a tight bond with his student, Geo. He talked with us about his relationship with Geo, how rewarding tutoring is, and how his T4A experience has shaped his plans to run his own classroom one day.

How did you hear about Tutors for All?

I was looking for opportunities to get involved with the community. As an engineering major, a lot of my time is very, let’s say, self-oriented. All you do is work: homework, projects, et cetera. I like to feel useful, and I wanted to find a way where I could help by helping others.

Honestly, I found Tutors for All just by Googling. My first time meeting anyone from Tutors for All was when I met Kate and Joe (Tobin’s Program Manager and Program Coordinator) at my training interview; it wasn’t your typical interview, and I liked that it was part of the training course – it seemed a little more dynamic, and less of a spotlight situation. I was hired as a tutor, and I’ve been with Tutors for All since mid-September, and so far it’s been great.

Tell us about the student you work with.

My student’s name is Geo, and he’s in the 6th grade at Tobin. Our relationship started off a little rocky, because he didn’t really want to be there, and didn’t understand why he had to be there. Now, it’s a little better, and he’s started opening up about his personal life. One thing is that he’s really into starting his own business – he’s even started his own little business in school. He likes to craft and make little paper figures like stars, and claws, and he sells them to other students, and even teachers. So a lot of the time we end up talking about that, and how his business is going.

What’s been your most memorable experience so far?

I can’t say that I have one favorite single moment – but my favorite part of tutoring so far is seeing how far I’ve come in building a relationship with Geo. He started off pretty antagonistic, and just didn’t want to do anything; the process of breaking down his barriers, getting to know him, finding out who he is, and what makes him tick – the sum total of that experience, and being able to look back on our progress, is definitely my favorite part.

What do you hope to do after you graduate?

I actually want to become a teacher, a high school math teacher to be exact. I love the experience of teaching, of breaking down concepts so that they can be more easily understood.

I’d made the decision before working with Tutors for All, and that was actually partly why I wanted to get involved. I plan to keep myself open to whatever’s needed most as a teacher, but working with Tutors for All has really helped open my eyes to the various components of education, and how many different things need to come together in order for a teacher to be effective. So it’s definitely helped evolve my perspective on teaching.

What kind of student were you when you were Geo’s age?

I was kind of a shy, reclusive student. Especially at that age, since I loved to read more than I loved math, I probably would’ve been that student who’s reading a book under the desk, ignoring the teacher’s instructions.

Any final words of wisdom for fellow tutors, or others who hope to go into education?

Enthusiasm is infectious. You need to be excited to be there for your students to be excited to be there; otherwise, they’ll latch onto your negativity and it’ll become a sort of motivational disease. So no matter what, it’s important to stay positive.

Making A Difference This Semester and Beyond

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Paul Mykos first discovered his love for tutoring as a student in his native country of Greece when he and a friend organized a weekly tutoring program for 1st-9th grade students. Now he’s a sophomore studying Chemical Engineering at Northeastern University, a choice which he credits to his own mentors in high school who imparted in him a passion for math and science.

Photo2Having first learned about Tutors for All his freshman year, Paul was quick to get involved. “I was looking to get involved with a tutoring program, but Tutors for All in particular impressed me, partly because it was the only organization that could prove it was making a difference, and partly because T4A’s reps clearly did what they did because they believed in it,” he said. He worked for a semester at the Mass General program and found himself partnered with Jennifer, a high school student originally from Colombia. “We contributed to each other’s growth,” he said. “When Jennifer mastered concepts which she previously thought were way beyond her level, we both felt so proud!”

When Paul’s English professor gave his class an assignment to present on something they felt passionate about and wanted to advocate for, he knew immediately what his topic would be. As he began researching for his presentation, however, he found that Tutors for All’s impact was even bigger than he first realized. “What we do is not just plain tutoring,” he said. “Through tutoring and mentoring, we are achieving something much bigger and significant. I strongly believe that any student should have the opportunity to attend college if they work hard regardless of ethnicity, social status or family income, and everyone should have the right to build a better future for themselves. What we do helps people achieve that, through education.” Paul’s passion for T4A even helped educate his fellow classmates.  “I could see everyone nodding in agreement while I was talking,” he said.  “Some classmates even told me that they had never thought about how lucky they were to be able to attend college.”

Paul sees tutoring as an important part of his life, and hopes that his work will convince others to see it that way, too. “Tutors for All has helped me realize how rewarding and precious it is to be able to help others and contribute to their improvement,” he said. “In the same way that my mentors were able to inspire me, I also hope to inspire and make a difference for everyone I have the privilege of mentoring.”

Tutor Spotlight: Super-Recruiter Melinda Pigeon

Melinda, a second year pre-med student at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, has been a tutor with us since fall 2014. In that short time, she’s recruited six new tutors to our ranks – the most referrals ever accomplished by one person! We asked her to tell us more about how she got involved and her passion for student progress.

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How did you first find out about Tutors for All?

I found out about Tutors for All last year during my freshman year, when I was looking for work study jobs to apply for. I love kids and have always been good at math so it seemed like the perfect way to spend my time.

What made you want to come back and serve with Tutors for All again?

Tutors for All became something that I looked forward to each week. I loved watching my student progress each week. Not only did my student seem to be understanding more, I noticed that she was growing more and more confident with herself. My second semester with Tutors for All I was a lead tutor. This was a great opportunity as it gave me more opportunity to reach out to the other tutors and hear about their experiences. Tutors for All became so much a part of my weekly schedule that upon getting my tentative fall 2015 schedule last spring, I moved classes around so as to free up some time for tutoring. I think that Tutors for All is a great program and very beneficial to not just the students, but also the tutors throughout Boston.

How many friends did you get to join up?

I believe last year I got around 5 or 6 friends to join up. This year, I’ve been spreading the word on many Boston college Facebook pages and through email, so hopefully we will see some new faces resulting from that.

What did you do to convince your friends to join T4A as well?

A lot of people I knew had heard me talking about how proud I was of my student and with her progress throughout the first semester. They would ask me how I found the position and how they could get involved. Everyone seemed to really just jump at the opportunity, whether it was volunteer or work study. With the people that I didn’t know, the ones that reached out due to my Facebook posts, I presented them with my story. I focused on describing how rewarding it had become to actually be able to see the progress and to know that what you’re doing for these kids really will impact their future. In the beginning, you really could see the impact of the achievement gap; the lack of opportunities present for encouragement and teaching skills inhibited students from reaching their full potential. Tutors for All provides these children with the encouragement and skills that they need to not only get ahead for the time being, but also provides them with a sense of confidence they can continue to build throughout life.

What did you end up using your Amazon gift cards on?

I used my Amazon gift cards to buy myself a Fitbit. Going into the medical field, I try to lead a healthy lifestyle. Buying a Fitbit has helped me make a few lifestyle changes such as eating healthier and taking up running.

Want to become a super-recruiter like Melinda? We offer a $25 Amazon gift card to the source of all referrals that end in a hire. We seek experienced individuals who have a passion for education and community outreach with skills in leadership and teaching. Recommenders can direct applicants to https://www.tutorsforall.org/tutoring/.

Meet our Talented Coordinator and Tutor: Harrison

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We first met Harrison, a Teach for America Alum, at the Harvard Graduate School of Education Internship Fair back in August.  This year, he has contributed significantly to Tutors for All as the Humanities Coordinator at Codman Academy and as a Lead Tutor at our MGH Program.  His passion for working in the field of education continually inspires us and we hope that this interview with him inspires you too!

 

What got you interested in working in the field of education?
Harrison: I was lucky enough to have teachers who helped me love what I learned and the process of learning itself. They inspired me to stay in the classroom to try and spread that passion.
 
How did you come to start working with Tutors for All?
Harrison: Tutors for All had a table at an internship fair that I visited. It was great to find an organization that would help me stay in contact with students during my studies, and the Tutors for All model is one that I immediately supported.
 
What has been the most memorable moment during your time working as a Codman DSC_7335Coordinator and an MGH Lead Tutor?
Harrison: The first few times that I experienced Saturday tutorial at Codman were breathtaking. Seeing so many students enjoying working with their tutors on a Saturday morning is more than enough to make most educators smile.

 

What was your favorite childhood book?
Harrison: The Lord of The Rings was my gateway into fantasy. I still love it.
 
When you are not working with us, what do you like to do for fun?
Harrison: I typically try to stay active, but this past winter in Boston made me spend much more time reading.
 
What words of advice do you have for our tutors?
Harrison: Dedication to helping other people is impressive. Make sure that you make the most of that time. Be prepared and help your students have fun.
 
After you finish your degree at Harvard Graduate School of Education, what’s next for you?
Harrison: I’ll be joining the English department at Northfield Mount Hermon, a boarding school in Massachusetts.
 
Is there anything else about yourself that you would like us to include in your story?
Harrison: Thank you so much to Luisa and Mark for their guidance at MGH and Codman, respectively. It’s been a pleasure to be a part of your programs.

Tutor and Student Spotlight: Cathy and Halima

IMAG0141This month’s Tutor and Student Spotlight features Cathy from Simmons College and Halima, a 10th Grader from the MGH Youth Scholars Program.  Last semester, Halima grew 5.2 grade levels on her GMADE (Group Mathematics Assessment and Diagnostic Evaluation) and is now testing at grade level.  Halima showed the most growth of all the MGH Youth Scholars last semester.

Why do you tutor?

 Cathy: “To improve a student’s knowledge.”

 What have you learned from Cathy during tutoring?

 Halima: “Multiplying and dividing fractions, factoring, and improper and mixed fractions.”

What have you learned from Halima in tutorial?

 Cathy: “I admire Halima’s dedication to use after school time to learn and use her math skills.”

 

IMAG0138What do you like the most about tutorial?

 Halima: “The fact that I get helped with a subject that I need to improve on.  And that it is one- on-one.”

 Cathy: “Being able to work one-on-one with a scholar.”

Has Cathy ever done anything creative or really funny?  What was it?

 Halima: “Something creative that she does is that she teaches me in a way that is fun and enjoyable (which I rarely experience outside of tutoring).”

Has Halima ever done anything creative or really funny? What was it?

 Cathy: “I would always quiz her on factors and try to trick her.  By the end she wouldn’t back down, even if I tried to see if there was another factor.”

What are your favorite things to do outside of school?

 Halima: “Hang out with friends, go to the movies, and shopping.”

What else would you like people to know about you?

 Cathy: “I enjoy working one-on-one with people, and that’s a reason why I am in college for physical therapy.”

Meet All-star Co-op Bennett Hadley

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We are incredibly excited to introduce you to Bennett Hadley.  He will be working with us as our Northeastern Co-op for the semester.  The Northeastern Co-op program allows students to compliment their academic study with full-time employment in a position related to their academic and/or career interests.  I had a chance to sit down with Bennett on his first day of work and learn a little bit more about him and why he chose to serve with Tutors for All.

T4A: Bennett, what brought you to Tutors for All this Fall?

Bennett: During the volunteer fair this Fall, I walked right past Andreas (a T4A Coordinator/ Lead Tutor) and a few flyers fell out of his hand.  I picked them up and gave them to him and he asked, “Do you want to be a tutor?” and I was like, “I’m going to think about it.  No thanks.”   I was walking back to my apartment and thinking about it and I realized that I actually kind of did want to tutor.  So I walked back and said, “Yeah I want to do it.”  And I signed up.

T4A: What are you studying?

Bennett: I’m currently a Physics major, but I’m looking to switch it to math.  Last semester, I was kind of searching for what I want to do and I think I’ve settled for math.

T4A: Was that impacted at all by tutoring math?

Bennett: Maybe a little bit.  I’ve always enjoyed doing math and helping others with problems.  It was an easy transition.

T4A: What were your favorite moments tutoring at Tobin this Fall?

Bennett: I really enjoyed the days when I was working with my student and she got really into it.  She would ask me questions about what we were doing and why is the answer this and why am I doing this.  I really liked it when she asked questions and was interested in what we were learning about.

T4A: What made you interested in being a Co-Op with us and what are you the most excited about?

 Bennett: Last semester in the Fall, I really enjoyed my time tutoring.  I have thought about pursuing a career in education and that this would be the best way to explore that.

T4A: What was your favorite childhood book?

Bennett:  The Harry Potter Series.  I absolutely adored it.  I think I started reading them around the time that the third one came out.  I was still pretty young- like 7 or 8 maybe.  And I went to the midnight release of the last 3 books.  I read through the series several times.  I still love it.  Out of the Harry Potter series, my favorite book would have to be 3.

T4A: So when you’re not tutoring with us, what do you like to do for fun?IMG_0072 (1)

Bennett: I really like skiing.  I ski a lot.  I’m on the club team at Northeastern.  We do races and stuff.  It’s my favorite thing to do.

T4A: Growing up, who was your favorite teacher?

Bennett: I’ve had a few really great teachers.  My 7th and 8th grade homeroom teacher (whom I also had for a few classes) pushed me and my classmates.  I also had a great teacher for a class called “Writing the Prose,” which was basically 11th Grade writing and composition and grammar.  He was a quirky guy- quite old, but he was sharp.  Both those teachers were tough teachers.  They really challenged all their students and held high expectations, but were still really friendly and approachable.

T4A: As this semester is starting, do you have any words of wisdom or advice for tutors as they jump into tutoring?

Bennett: Come in excited with a lot of energy and don’t ever give up on your student.  Persistence is key.

T4A: Is there anything else about yourself that you would like to include in your story?

Bennett: I’m really into music.  I really like my music and am particular about my music.  I like alternative stuff or indie.  I like a lot of different stuff.  When I’m not doing anything or sitting around my apartment, I am always listening to music.

Elizabeth Marshall, Tutor Support Coordinator

Jennifer Zavala: Tutor, College Graduate, Mom

Jen ZavalaI’m a first generation college student.  Going to college was very different for me.  I didn’t have any guidance.  I didn’t know anything about how the process worked.  Guidance counselors asked me: “Where do you want to go to school?” I couldn’t even put that together.  I remember my guidance counselor threw out a few colleges and Northeastern was one of them. I ended up going to Northeastern.

 

The first year or two of college was just figuring out what this is.  I was a straight A student in high school.  But you need to put in a lot of time in college. You have to have the discipline to be on your own, and to know that you need to go to class to do your projects.

 

I stumbled across Tutors for All because I was looking for a work study job.  I remember the day I met with Mark.  He interviewed me and hired me on the spot.

I grew up in Lynn, Massachusetts in a tough neighborhood.  It’s low income and back then, there was a lot of crime and violence.   So I had seen that all before, but when I started working for Tutors for All, I saw the other side of it.  I saw urban youth facing their own challenges.  Single parent households and  teen pregnancy were very common.  I wanted to make a difference, but  it was hard because I was a college sophomore telling high school freshmen and sophomores: “this is what we’re going to do”. I had to be an adult, yet I was still only a student. Eventually, I became a lead tutor and led a team of four other tutors as we helped Boston high school students.

 

When I got pregnant my sophomore year, I didn’t want to stop going to college.  My mom and dad said, “You have to work,” and I did as a coordinator at Tutors for All.  It was with a lot of sweat and tears and not without regrets.  I didn’t get to take full advantage of college life.  But I did get my degree and I graduated in 2008 on time.

 

I studied business management.  I have been working for banks ever since.  I started as a teller and I worked for a few financial institutions. Today, I work for First Republic in downtown Boston.  I am a private banker.  I deal with high net-worth clients and businesses helping them with all their needs: checking, savings, mortgage, and wealth-management.  I really like what I do.  I have a lot of flexibility.  I deal with clients all the time in different situations.  I get invited to events and get involved with different organizations to help make things happen around the city.

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My eight-year-old is in 3rd grade.  It’s been a tough year for her because she now has to be a big kid.  Because of working with Tutors for All, I have the experience to deal with her.  She comes home frustrated and she says, “Mom, I can’t do this math homework” so I break it down for her.  I am careful about how I say things so that I don’t make her feel like she’s not smart enough.  Tutors for All gave me that confidence to be able to help her.  I constantly challenge her to think: “Does this make sense?  Explain it yourself.  You may understand what you are writing, but do other people understand it?” I think it’s because I have that tutoring experience in the back of my head that it always puts me in that mode.  It’s an hour every day of homework: reading and writing homework, math homework.

 

My advice for current tutors is to have a lot of patience.   If a tutor doesn’t show a student that they really care,  it is not going to work.  As a tutor, that’s the hardest thing to learn how to do.  It takes time and it doesn’t happen right away.  No matter how much you get trained up front, it’s not something that you can be taught.  You can learn to lesson plan and how to teach long division, but it’s having that ability to show kids “I’m here because I care about you”.  That makes all the difference.  After all, everything that we do is driven by passion.

 

The Most Interesting Tutor in the World? An Interview with Jason Ewas.

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When summers roll around, Jason Ewas is a familiar face in the Tutors for All office. A recent Cornell University graduate, Jason has been working with Tutors for All since 2010. He’s coming back for his last summer, and the Tutors for All paparazzi managed to get him to answer a few questions. Read on to find out about his crazy children’s book and where his dancing skills lie.

T4A: What is your full name?

Jason Joseph Ewas

T4A: Where did you go to college and what did you study?

I attended Cornell University and studied English.

T4A: What’s your hometown?

Halifax, MA

T4A: When did you start working with Tutors for All?

Fall 2010

T4A: What drew you to work in education?

At first, a vague desire to help students and, quite frankly, simply needing a work-study job. T4A had an opening, and it seemed like something I might like. During my time at T4A, however, I became increasingly interested in education and committed much of my spare time to tutoring and research.

T4A: What’s your favorite thing about Tutors for All?

Its student-centered approach, and the input that it takes from its tutors. As a tutor, I always felt that I understood the immediate and long term benefits of the content I was teaching. The T4A staff always encouraged tutors to design individualized lessons for each of our students.

T4A: What are your plans now that you’ve graduated?.

I will work in the government or non-profit sector full time, while pursuing a Master’s in Public Affairs (MSPA) at UMass Boston in the evenings.

T4A: What’s your favorite thing to do outside of tutoring?

Reading and writing. I’m currently writing a children’s book about a talking cat named Larry who journeys into the woods. This may seem a little crazy, but it’s loosely based on Dante’s Inferno.

T4A: What’s your favorite food?/Place to eat in Boston?

Anything made by my lovely girlfriend, of course. Since I’m a vegetarian, this includes broccoli Parmesan “meatballs” (I’m not joking), and various other veggie delicacies. My favorite place in Boston is True Bistro in Somerville, even though I’ve only been there twice. It’s delicious vegan food.

T4A: What’s the most interesting thing about you that we didn’t know?

Well, the T4A staff knows this, but most people don’t, and are often surprised and disbelieving when I tell them: I am a very talented hip-hop dancer.