Over the years we have had so many wonderful people involved with this program, and the number keeps growing and growing! We cannot thank you, our alumni, enough. We wish you all luck wherever you are and with whatever endeavors you may be undertaking.
Reflections from the past
I would have to say that Tutorial Project is one of the most meaningful experiences I have had at Hopkins, and it’s easy to see why it’s one of the longest running volunteer programs at Hopkins. As a tutor and organizer, I was actually able to see all my hard work pay off as I watched my kids grow both academically, and personally. No matter how stressful a day I had, I always looked forward to those few hours a week where I knew I would be having fun whether it be with my fellow tutors and organizers, or the kids.
~ Trena Mukherjee
I knew I wanted to be a part of Tutorial before I finished my tour of Johns Hopkins. I was a junior in high school and Hopkins was one of the first colleges I visited. I remember leaving the admissions office and walking towards Levering and all of the sudden hearing the sound of children laughing. As we walked by, elementary school children and Hopkins students were playing outside- playing tag, playing jump rope and playing football. Our tour guide explained what the Tutorial Project was and I knew instantly that I wanted to be a tutor. The rest of the tour is a blur, as is most of the other college tour and information sessions that I went on. But I did not forget about Tutorial, especially when i was accepted to Hopkins and then started my freshman year. Tutorial is and will always be the highlight of my Hopkins career. Of course the classes I took and the friends I made and the experiences I had are important parts when I look back at college, but Tutorial is what defined me the most. The kids I worked with, the families I met, the tutors I helped and the friends I made at Tutorial all contributed to the person I am today. I learned how to be an authority figure, how to supervise and ultimately learned what I wanted to be when I grow up.
~ Katie Firestone
The last time I saw crayons strewn across the ground was during my last patrol of Gilman. I thought kids make a mess of things in a very peculiar way: game tokens find themselves in the pages of Dr. Seuss and crayons in the microscope sets while precious items like jackets and backpacks always go missing. I remember the disarray well. Walk in to the Little Theatre and you’ll see a tutee standing on a chair to reach the top of the chalk board while her tutor looks on, a pile of at least half a dozen board games and a series of books having been shuffled together like a stack of cards.
A child, spotting me just as I walk into a room, would jump up out of his seat and run to me with a big gleaming smile. One hand totes the book he just finished reading; the other would be used to navigate the maze of children in his way. He would also use this arm to suggest that he was about to give me a hug, which sure enough I would receive. This was his victory procession – he had turned over his work when he jumped up out of his seat, ran through the board games of other children who were working on the floor, and lost pages from his book as it collided with the many obstacles on his way over to me. While just a week earlier I had reprimanded him for misbehaving on the bus, the session before we had worked through his frustration with the difficult tasks his tutor had given him. Today, he delivered this accomplishment.
Looking over, I saw the chaos he created as he made his way to this point. This is the physical trail of creative destruction.
Thinking back on the workings of Tutorial Project, I realize that the size of the mess is probably a better metric than a test score. Would we rather have kids sit down at an assigned seat and read two books and work through twenty math problems? It was the mess that was proof that kids enjoyed themselves that day, and while at it, learned something in our unusual classroom.
We hope that this feeling of satisfaction will inspire them for the rest of their lives.
~ Birju Patel, Student Director
If I had to think of one word or phrase to summarize what tutorial is it would be this: Tutorial is an experience. When I first joined tutorial my sophomore year in college, which seems like it was ages ago, I had no idea what to really expect from the program and the people involved in the program. But in no time the program had a lasting impact. It has left me with some of my best memories of my time at Hopkins. The memories of each of my tutees and all of my pairs still brings a smile to my face: everything from Quantae’s excitement over hitting a wiffle ball onto the roof of Levering, to hours spent in Gilman with Tyray and Lin reading and doing problems on the chalkboard, to Cameron’s story about saving Princess Julie, to the times on the bus. As a tutor, I enjoyed being able to create a one-on-one connection with each of my tutees, while working with them slowly to improve their ability to do math and reading, but maybe more importantly promoting their confidence in the their abilities to succeed and enjoyment of learning. Through the numerous games we were able to give the kids tangible applications for what they are learning in school, or even in some cases things they should have learned in school but just were not able to.
Later as an organizer, I was initially saddened to trade in playtime for a more responsible role within the program, but was eventually glad to have greater involvement with my pairs and with the program as a whole. Pre-testing to post-testing each semester was filled with smiles and laughter, but also some moments of sadness to know the reality of certain circumstances. Now as an alumni, I often find myself missing part of my career at Hopkins. I know it’s not for the long hours spent staring at the chalk board hoping the equations would eventually make sense but for the two hours that I used to spend on Mondays and Wednesdays (granted there was a semester or two when I was Tuesday/ Thursday) in Levering preparing action plans or simply just walking around watching the pairs work together smiling at the small difference we were trying to make even for such a short period time. I will have to say my only regret is that I did not join during my freshman year and that I am not still part of it to this day.
A word to all the current student volunteers – enjoy every minute, because four years will pass before you know it and Tutorial will be one of your fondest experiences at Hopkins.
~ Jerry George, Organizer
After participating in the Tutorial Project for nearly my entire college career, I still have a hard time explaining the program to someone who has never heard of it. Believe me, I’ve tried – in more than one language, too. While living in Taiwan, my attempts to describe the program in Chinese ended up something like this: “Elementary school students come to a big room at my school, where we teach them math, reading, and writing. They come by bus. No, it’s not a city bus. Yes, a school bus, like the ones in American movies! No, I’m not the bus driver! …”
Here’s what I’m trying to say: Tutorial is a program that provides a supportive environment for tutors and tutees to build meaningful relationships. During the journey, tutees learn academic skills that will hopefully help them reach or even surpass grade level. More importantly, children spend time with friends and mentors who genuinely care; Hopkins students discover their potentials to impact the lives of others.
I joined Tutorial Project as a freshman and tutored Sharae. At first, she was extremely shy and felt apprehensive about learning new things. A complete metamorphosis occurred in the three semesters that we worked together. For example, she started the program reading picture books. By the end? “Tiffany! This book is for babies. I want a long chapter book!” She loved reading, loved demonstrating math skills, loved learning.
As an organizer last semester and now, a student director, Tutorial has gotten even better. It has become such a significant part of my life that I look forward to Mondays and Wednesdays rather than weekends. Kids tell me about their hopes, their fears, and what they ate for lunch during the bus ride. Organizers share adorable stories as well as moments of frustration. Parents call me to say that they will do anything to get their child in our tutoring program. Most of all, the energy and excitement of eager children envelop me as I walk up the CSC stairs and turns any bad day around. I cannot imagine Mondays and Wednesdays any other way. ~ Tiffany Chen, M/W Student Director
Three years ago, when I was a freshman looking for ways to get involved on campus, I had no idea that a simple decision to join Tutorial Project would so greatly affect my Hopkins experience. I had never tutored before and I was a little nervous about how to interact with my tutee. On the first day of tutoring, I checked in, made a welcoming action plan for my tutee, and sat quietly, waiting to meet the student I would be tutoring. It turned out I had been assigned a fifth grade boy who was about my height and weight – I had no idea where to start. I asked him about his school, his friends, his favorite classes; “Do you like recess?” I asked.
“You don’t like recess?!”
“We don’t have recess when we’re bad.”
I was at a complete loss. Needless to say, this phase soon passed. Chris Brown began running off the bus to greet me each day at tutorial and managed to actually knock me to the ground a few times – we were the same size after all. We worked on fractions and reading and poetry and joked around. Chris wasn’t very confident, but after I convinced him that I didn’t know how to tie my shoes and that I needed someone to teach me, things got better. Each day he’d review long division rules and do a short worksheet then he’d coach me on the different methods of tying shoes. Chris never missed a session of tutorial and I realized how important it was to him. He didn’t come to tutorial to play football at playtime, to act out with the other boys, or to eat globby peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I felt responsible for the little steps of progress we made each session and for his frustration when he just wanted to put his head down on the table and give up. At the end of the year, Chris was graduating Tutorial Project and was also preparing to move on to middle school the next year – he wouldn’t be eligible to come back to the program. I decided to dress up for his graduation in recognition of his hard work, but Chris had outdone me and came dressed in a black suit, pink collar shirt, and bright red tie. My heart swelled when he ran off the bus and hugged me. He cried when he got on the bus to leave that day and I really did miss him when I came back as an organizer the next semester and he wasn’t there.
This is my fourth year with Tutorial and my second year as Tuesday/Thursday Student Director. Tutorial Project has permeated every aspect of my life and completely impacted my time at college. The Center for Social Concern is a second home and the student and staff are my family for better or for worse.
The job is tough; there are a lot of demands and the commitment is great for tutors, organizers, and directors alike. But I think we all love the program because we all love these kids – yes, even the little terrors who make us wonder why anyone would ever have children, ever. It’s clear that tutors return each semester and students apply to be organizers because they genuinely care about these elementary schoolers who win us over with big smiles, tight hugs, giggles about elementary school dating, their renditions of popular rap music, and the happiness of being a kid on a college campus with an adult mentor all their own. ~ Jasmine Ainetchian, T/Th Student Director
As a freshman entering an unknown institution in an unknown city and part of the country, it was a bit daunting to try and join a volunteer group. Tutorial project changed all that. As a tutor I felt welcomed, appreciated. I had no idea Tutorial Project was such a permanent ongoing project when I first started but over the past year I can see easily why it approaches its 50th anniversary. Most of all, Tutorial is effective and really reaches out to the kids in a way supplementary to education. I see what a difference a program can make and I have no doubt in my mind that Tutorial Project will be celebrating its centennial anniversary in another 50 years. ~ Abir Chisti
The Johns Hopkins Tutorial Project may outwardly be a service to the Baltimore elementary students that come to Johns Hopkins to learn math and reading, but to me and to many tutors, it is much more. Tutorial is the opportunity to change the life of a child, to help them build self-confidence and aspire to know more, but in the process the tutee teaches you so much more. Tutorial opened my eyes to a city I had never truly experienced and to build a relationship with elementary students yearning to grow. The fears, the frustration of my tutee have taught me patience and their success has brought me joy. Today I look back at my education and reflect on those who have helped me get to where I am today and I wish I could thank them more for their effort. I have always enjoyed serving and helping others and again Tutorial has taught me that the experiences you gain are often more valuable than anything you could have given. I hope that tutorial will continue to change lives of both the tutors and tutees for years to come. ~ Jon Gilbert
Tutorial is many things. It’s peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and apple juice. It’s action plans, shaped like watermelons and footballs, checked off with Crayola markers. It’s Frog games and tens blocks, math problems and money pieces, spelling words and tic-tac-toe. It’s the Little Theater, packed full of tutors and tutees, their heads bent together over a worksheet or a set of flashcards. It’s playtime, Reverse Session, and Graduation. Most of all, it’s hearing a right answer, watching eyes light up, and knowing you made a difference; that every day, our kids are going home with just a little bit more than what they had when they got off the bus. ~ Rachel Austin
Last spring, I was leaving the library one Monday night around 2am, having just finished my work for the next day. As I walked, I noticed a couple of my friends from Tutorial Project still hard at work. It occurred to my sleep deprived mind that they were still there because they had given up a part of their day to Tutorial. All I could think was how great it was that they were willing to stay up studying two or three hours later and get that much less sleep simply because they chose to devote that time to helping others. At Hopkins, where most people are involved with so many projects of their own, it’s always refreshing to walk into the CSC and find so many people who are dedicated to making a difference in these kids’ lives. I’m so glad that as an organizer, I can help my tutors make the most of their time with these kids and see these kids really learn. ~ Emily Cook
I joined Tutorial Project on a whim. I saw the table at the SAC Fair and stopped at the table, curious since my community service in high school never involved tutoring. I missed having my little sister around, so I thought tutoring would be a nice way to keep that aspect of home at Hopkins. The kids I’ve worked with have been at completely different ends of the spectrum: boys, girls, younger, older, outgoing, and quiet. I was lucky to have gotten experience with a variety of personalities and learning styles. After four semesters, it felt like an obvious choice to apply for an organizer position. I love the program, not just because it deals with kids, but because of the organization and how seriously the program is taken. A lot of community service groups do work, but Tutorial Project makes sure that the three hours the kids are in the Little Theater are completely productive. Every member of Tutorial Project has a set duty spelled out for him or her. The kids are not just thrown together with students and left alone. The strengths and weaknesses of the kids are found, and we use that information to help the kid as much as possible. The tutee has a tutor, an organizer, a student director, and an adult director who all know her name and want to do everything possible to help. That way, the program does the most amount of good in the time allotted. This is really at the heart of my experience with Tutorial Project. Not only that I’m helping, but I’m helping the right way. There is no doubt in my mind that the work done in the program makes a difference. The kids come out not only with more confidence and better learning skills, but with a friend and advocate, things that are not always easy to find. ~ Grace Kronauer
The tutorial project is one of the most fulfilling programs I’ve chosen to be a part of on campus. Watching these kids grow, both academically and personally, and knowing that I’m a part of it is just incredible. Tutorial is not only rewarding, it’s so much fun! Through grueling times full of exams and papers, the kids keep me laughing and smiling. ~ Salina Khushal
Tutorial Project is very rewarding. My last tutee wrote me a note saying, “You are the best teacher ever and I love you very much… Thank You!” When she gave it to me, it made my day and I immediately put it on my refrigerator for everyone to see. It’s still hanging on my refrigerator to this day. All of the work and tutoring pays off when the kid truly appreciates your help! That’s why I continue to volunteer with Tutorial Project, because I know I’m making a difference in a kid’s life. ~ Brittany McKinnon
Being a part of the Johns Hopkins Tutorial Project has been the most significant experience of my college career. It all started the fall semester of my freshman year, when the end of one of my classes coincided with Tutorial’s playtime—every time I would leave to walk home, I would see the kids jumping rope and playing football and was intrigued. I applied to tutor in the spring, and even though my first tutee was one of the “trouble makers,” I committed myself to the program. Although my bad luck with tutees continued into the next semester (my assigned tutee left the program a few weeks in and I became a permanent substitute), one of my fondest memories of the program was when I subbed for another tutor. This particular tutee was shy at the beginning and didn’t warm up to me at all. I was nervous that the activities I was doing weren’t getting through to him, until I altered the presentation of the information slightly. As he began to understand, a smile appeared on his face and he slowly came out of his shell. By playtime, he was treating me like his best friend. I felt such pride and satisfaction that even in this short period of time, I might have made a difference in this child’s life—and in the end, this is what Tutorial is all about. While I enjoyed tutoring, being an organizer has personally been far more rewarding. I not only feel influential to a greater number of tutees, but I have made some of my closest friends in the other organizers. The Tutorial community—including the tutees, tutors, other organizers, student director and program director—has been like a family to me and I could not be happier with my experience. I’m still in denial that my involvement in Tutorial ends after this year when I graduate, after three semesters of tutoring and four semesters as an organizer, since it has become such an integral part of my life in college. I can’t imagine not spending six (sometimes six plus) hours in the CSC every week, hearing MaeQuelle sing the newest song she wrote or helping Adrionna with her multiplication facts. But even though I have to leave, I know that the program will enjoy another fifty fabulous years and beyond and continue to make big differences in the lives of inner city Baltimore children. ~ Julia Thorn
Malcolm X once stated that “Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” The people who have made Tutorial Project the success that it is, have been as diverse as one can imagine. It is, however, symbolic of Tutorial, that each of us shares this idea; students, administrators and families alike. And it is this belief that has sustained our organization for the last fifty years. We do not simply provide the students with an understanding of simple facts. Education is bigger than multiplication and spelling. It is the inculcation of the virtues whose uses are farther reaching than any math problem could hope to be. If this process happens to be disguised as academic challenge, so much the better. This is the very foundation of any positive change our program has affected.
On a personal level, I cannot otherwise reflect on my experience with Tutorial than with deep sentiment. While it is certain that I have given some of myself to instill a few important life lessons, I can say with confidence that I’ve received far more teaching than I’ve given. Instruction in camaraderie and perspective stand out in my mind. The memories are, still, too many to enumerate here. I wish, though, to call back in your minds, the recollections of your involvement with our program and ask you to cherish them. They are of a rare quality, and I hope that Tutorial Project will continue to make such impressions for at least fifty more years. ~ Deepak Atri
At Tutorial Project, I feel like everybody is so close to each other that it feels like a family. Help and support are always available from both your peers and your superiors so I never feel like I am working alone or working under pressure. The Project is incredibly well-organized and regularly evaluated to make it even better. I am amazed at how a mainly-student-run group can be this successful. ~ Worawan Limpitikul
The JHU Tutorial Project has kept me connected to the real world while in the Hopkins social bubble. Seeing sixty rambunctious elementary and middle school students twice a week seems to refresh my energy and remind me that life is happening outside of campus; people go to work, parents try to make ends meet, and kids are growing up, with or without understanding their times tables or their short vowel sounds. Such holes in understanding of early education principles eventually amplify themselves later in life, leading to missed opportunities. However, my experiences at Tutorial have taught me that sometimes a little bit of extra time and patience can make a huge difference in a child’s education. I am so proud to be part of an organization that has empowered students through education for fifty years. ~ Jill Adams
I first became involved in Tutorial Project during the fall of my sophomore year. It was sort of a random spur of the moment decision; I had somehow stumbled upon the program’s website and after reading through the description of the group and looking at the pictures that were posted I decided that it was definitely something that I was interested in being a part of.
Being the youngest in my family I had never really interacted with, let alone, taught younger kids before. As a result of this, initially I was extraordinarily nervous about what my relation with my tutee would be like. The first day that I met my tutee things were admittedly a bit awkward. In retrospect asking my tutee “what is your motivation for coming to Tutorial Project and what do you hope to gain out of this experience” may have been a bit too overwhelming for the first day; something along the lines of “I’m so glad you’re here…we’re going to have so much fun” would probably have worked a lot better.
My tutee was in second grade and his main problem was that he had an extremely hard time focusing. In this sense, most of the time it was a real struggle to get him to sit still in a chair, let alone actually understand the concepts that I was trying to teach. Initially, I found this to be very frustrating and just kept trying to push harder and harder hoping that he would somehow listen and understand. It did not take long for me to realize that this methodology was not getting us anywhere and eventually I learned to work with this facet of my tutee’s personality instead of against it. This was a real turning point as from this point onwards tutoring becam0e really fun for both my tutee and myself.
The best part of my experience at Tutorial Project has to be seeing how appreciative some of the tutees and their parents are of the work that we do. My tutee’s grandmother would thank me incessantly every time she came to pick up her grandson and tell me how although he did not have a father or brother in his life, she felt that he was lucky to have me. One particularly touching memory I have is talking to my tutee’s grandmother the week after they had come back from a family vacation and her telling me how for the whole time that they were away my tutee had been constantly pestering his mother and grandmother to buy something for him to bring back for me. He ended up giving me a key chain and I still keep it on the dresser in my room.
I am now an organizer with the Tutorial Project and although it is somewhat different from being a tutor it is still just as rewarding, if not more so. I really enjoy watching from a distance as my pairs sit together outside on a bench reading a story together, play baseball during playtime, or laugh at silly inside jokes that they have with each other. It’s a great feeling to think that the time that the various members of the Tutorial Project have spent interacting with kids for half a century now has made a difference in the lives of so many kids. I really feel that years from now, when I look back at my time here at Hopkins, one of the things that I will remember most fondly will be my time spent at Tutorial Project. ~ Vamsi Kalari
I’ve never seen so many games,
or had to learn this many names,
but the Tutorial Project has taught
me a lot more than I thought.
I tutored here my freshman semester
because my roommate loved to pester.
Tutoring became a biweekly escape
from boring lectures, snoring, mouth agape.
Pencils, papers, crayons galore—
The Little Theater was never a bore.
Peanut butter, crackers, juice, and jelly
these were the snacks filling up little bellies.
So it brings no surprise,
that there’s been no demise,
In these past fifty years,
it’s become incredibly clear.
This program is key,
and you would have to agree,
the world becomes smarter
when everyone tries a little harder.
~ Alita Perez-Tamayo