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  • Lindsey Millerd

Peer tutors assist Leeward Community College students

Photo courtesy Leeward Writing Center

Being a college student can be difficult. Sleepless nights, balancing a social calendar, and a rigorous academic schedule can take its toll. Like any other challenge, asking for help is one of the best ways to get guidance and alleviate some of the stress.

Whether you need help revising an essay, understanding an equation, or navigating your future college and career plans, peer tutors and mentors are here to provide that helping hand.

Doug Kovel, the CEO of Cosmic Prep, a college preparation and counseling center, shared with Inside Higher Education, how essential peer-to-peer tutoring is.

Kovel puts it this way, “A peer tutor bridges that gap between a quasi-authority figure and a friend, who can serve as an educator and therapist of sorts.”

While it is encouraged to reach out to your professor, sometimes it can be intimidating to do so. Meeting with them may feel too formal, or you may feel like a burden if you need a lot of time to work something out. Peer tutors tend to feel more approachable because they are relatable and can devote more time to individual students.

Peer tutors serve as role models.

“Sure, professors can be role models for what students can become one day, but peer tutors allow students to see what they can accomplish soon,” Kovel said.

A peer tutor can relate to other students because they know the struggle. They can show other students how they overcame challenges to reach their academic goals.

For Isaiah Takahashi, a Leeward Writing Center writing consultant, making students comfortable during sessions is key.

“When working with students, my goal is to provide friendly and meaningful tutoring that helps them achieve their academic goals,” he said. “Individual tutoring sessions focus on the student’s needs and cover topics like creating a thesis statement, developing ideas, using and citing sources, and improving grammar.”

Of course, these skills aren’t limited to English courses. Lea Sabado, also a Leeward writing consultant, said she assists students in many academic disciplines such as business, anthropology and culinary arts. Whether it’s an essay, presentation, or forum, writing is a foundational skill for most subjects.

For some, tutoring may seem unnecessary. Especially with technology at our fingertips, students rely on the internet to try and answer their questions. But they are missing out on the valuable real-time feedback that human interaction can provide.

“Students get to have someone who can give them personalized and genuine advice that comes from someone who knows what it's like to be in their shoes,” Sabado said.

The tutoring sessions usually run between 25 and 55 minutes. It starts with the tutor asking for background on the student's assignment and what they specifically need help with. Sabado added that tutors are able to “assist students through whatever phase they are in during the writing process, from brainstorming to finalizing.”

The Writing Center also hosts various focused workshops. Focused Workshops concentrate on specific writing skills like grammar, for example. In-Class workshops are conducted during a student’s regular class meeting to see how well students grasp the material. Success connection workshops teach students how to accomplish their academic, personal, and professional goals.

Many tutors are aspiring educators and find the work rewarding.

“My passion is education, and I am working towards becoming a teacher,” Sabado said. Not only does she enjoy helping others improve, but she appreciates the practice too.

The Writing Center is just one of many tutoring services at Leeward. Students can also get help from the Math Lab and the Learning Resource Center (LRC). The LRC has tutors available for a broad range of subjects, such as accounting, biology, chemistry and Japanese.

In addition to the tutors at Leeward, there are also program-specific mentors who offer a similar but somewhat broader, guiding hand.

Mentors are here to provide advice on the academic journey as a whole.

“Think of tutors as people to help you achieve your short-term goals and mentors as those that can help get you closer to achieving your long-term goals,” said Stacy Lucas, a peer mentor for students majoring in sustainable agriculture.

These mentors are students or recent graduates who are able to focus their attention on peers in the same major. Like tutors, they can help students in their current classes, but also give advice on next steps in their academic and professional journey.

“I hope that students can feel like they can talk to me about anything,” Lucas said. “I really just want to be the person that students can reach out to if they want another student to relate to. I hope that students can feel supported and confident in their academic journey.”

Whether transferring to a different campus, applying for an internship or seeking out a career opportunity, peer mentors are available to provide their best insight.

Not sure who your peer mentor is? Get in touch with your program coordinator or counselor to get connected and set up a meeting.

“There are no setbacks to getting more help, and tutoring services are available for the sole purpose of benefiting students,” Sabado said. “With the assistance of campus tutoring, students can achieve more than they thought were possible.”

Leeward’s mentors and tutors are eager to support you. One-on-one tutoring through the Writing Center, Learning Resource Center and Math Lab are all available via Zoom. Students can create a Penji account using their UH email to schedule a tutoring session.

In-person tutoring at the Writing Center is also available by appointment only on Mondays and Wednesdays. Email if you would like to schedule an in-person appointment.

Follow the Writing Center on Instagram @wcleeward to be updated on upcoming workshops.

Visit Leeward’s Academic Help page to learn more about all of the available tutoring opportunities and how you can book your first session today.

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