Program At High School Tutors Lend A Hand To Peers
March 26, 2005
BY SUSAN KANIA, SPECIAL TO THE COURANT
With University of Connecticut
tutor Kofi Ayisi at his side, Enrique Fernandez began revising
his poem about basketball in The Writing Room at Hartford Public
Enrique, 15, a freshman at Hartford Public, nodded as Kofi,
18, a UConn freshman from Bridgeport, reminded him to add quotation
marks. Then he searched the Internet for music by The Game, hoping
his favorite rapper could inspire new rhythm for his verse.
Tucked within the Career Services Office at Hartford Public,
The Writing Room is a place where high school and college students
meet to talk and improve their writing. UConn students, who are
enrolled in a tutoring practicum at the university this semester,
began training a group of Hartford Public students to be writing
tutors for their peers in January.
Now, two afternoons each week, the center is bustling with students
helping students, writing poetry or essays or letters to the
editor. The younger students stop in after track practice or
before dance class, for pizza and cookies and help with homework.
Or, like junior Dajemi Rodriguez, 17, one of the Hartford Public
tutors, they come simply because they love to write.
Dajemi said working with her
fellow students was kind of hard and awkward at first. "But
I get them to open up and tell me what they have to write.
Sometimes I help them change the wording or rearrange their
Hartford Public tutor, junior Sofia Medina, 16, said the UConn
tutors taught them how to help students without dictating to
them what they have to write.
Freshman Demitri Lucy, 15, one of several players from the freshman
basketball team who come to The Writing Room, said it's been
a great place for help with his class work.
"The tutors taught me to make an outline before I start
writing, and then to pick my best ideas," Demitri said.
He especially liked writing an essay about becoming an NBA player
after high school.
"The Writing Room has been a huge collaboration between
people at UConn and Hartford Public. We really want this to be
permanent," said Nina Condren, 20, a 2002 graduate of Hartford
Public who is the UConn student director for The Writing Room.
Co-director Laurie Cella teaches the tutoring practicum and is
a UConn graduate student working toward her doctorate in English.
"Both Nina and Laurie were passionate about starting this
writing center," said Hartford Public English teacher Gary
Lotreck. "They recruited the tutors, and talked to coaches
and teachers to encourage the students to come.
"They're fostering the
joy of writing. ... It's very exciting and positive for Hartford
Principal Mark Zito said The
Writing Room has been "a fantastic
addition" to the high school.
"It's needed, too. The kids need to be able to write effectively
before they go to college," Zito said. "Clear writing
is indicative of clear thinking."
Results from the 2003-04 Connecticut Academic Performance Test
show that only 17.3 percent of Hartford Public's sophomores met
the state goal on the writing portion of the test, whereas 25.6
percent of sophomores at schools within similar cities and 53.7
percent statewide met the writing goal that school year.
In addition to working with the high school students as writing
tutors, the UConn students have benefited from being invited
to team-teach lessons in several classrooms. Melissa Rinaldo,
21, a junior from Coventry, created a lesson on leadership for
a freshman class, which included a lot of writing.
"The students seemed excited that we were there," Rinaldo
said. "I want to be a teacher, so it was a good experience." She
added that going into the classroom also helped her attract new
students to The Writing Room.
Cella said one of their goals
is to get Hartford Public teachers more involved with The Writing
Room. "We want to show them
what the possibilities are," she said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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