From one generation to the next

Jefferson students find value in being a model for younger children


The Holmer Middle School tutors walking from the Jefferson dome. Photo courtesy of TJHSST.

Connie Ryu, Staff Writer

Every Wednesday, 20 Jefferson students walk to Weyanoke Elementary School, the elementary school nearby the school campus, in order to meet their tutees. These students are tutors in the tutoring program that Jefferson offers to nearby elementary and middle schools. Tutors going nearby walk, but others drive to the slightly further schools. These students commit to an 8th period block every week to go and help teachers and students with whatever help is needed.

“Last week, I had to help them [the teacher and students] take a test, where a few weeks before, I helped out with individual work,” sophomore tutor Gayatri Gopavajhala said. “Some kids might need help with a thing, so the teacher would pull us aside and say, ‘Hey, can you work with these kids?’”

Committing to an eighth period for the entire year is definitely a challenge for students as these eighth periods are used flexibly for help in certain subjects, working on group projects, and also to make up missed work. Many students apply for the program in the beginning of the year and although the teachers would like to accept everyone, they must choose from the applicants.

“The biggest thing we look for is reliability. As Mr. Miller often says in our introductory meeting, you can be the best tutor in the world, but if you’re not there, it doesn’t matter,” Dr. Denise Castaldo, the Jefferson teacher leading the Weyanoke tutoring program, said. “We want everybody to have an opportunity to do it if they can, so we look for people who have shown genuine interest and have demonstrated reliability to their references as well.”

Although volunteering to be a tutor may have the tutors sacrifice some things, the privilege to meet and help young children gives the tutors a time of relaxation where they can laugh and have fun, while the tutees are also learning and thinking in ways that may have not existed before.

“I hope they [the tutors] recognize how much joy can come from working with you people. I think there are lots of ways that you can be a positive role model and a mentor to young people, even if you’re not a teacher. And so, I hope they [the tutors] see this as a possible pathway or avenue to other opportunities in the future as well,” Castaldo said. “We have so many students who are so willing to make a commitment to somebody else without having their primary reason being for their own benefit.”