Talking at the library: Students speak up to help others learn

Photo by Sue Suchyta
Allen Park Middle School eighth-grader Walter Palmerio (left), 14, gets help with his math homework from Allen Park High School National Honor Society volunteer tutor Taylor Marosi, a 17-year-old senior. NHS members tutor at the Allen Park Public Library, 8100 Allen Road, from 2:45 to 4:45 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays when school is in session.

Sunday Times Newspapers

ALLEN PARK – Talking is encouraged at the Allen Park public library – especially when all the smart kids are doing it.

Allen Park High School National Honor Society members are talking at their local library after school when they tutor younger students, and teen librarian Karen Smith said she hasn’t heard any complaints about the students being too loud.

Members of the APHS chapter of the NHS, a national recognition program for high school upperclassmen excelling in scholarship, service and leadership, offer free after-school tutoring at the Allen Park Public Library, 8100 Allen Rd., from 2:45 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays when school is in session.

NHS members fulfill volunteer service hours in many different ways, both in groups or individually. Not all APHS NHS members tutor at the local library, but the service activity is popular enough that the volunteer slots fill up quickly.

NHS volunteer tutors sign up on a list at the high school to work for sessions lasting two hours, with three NHS tutors sought to volunteer each day. NHS members say the activity is so popular with chapter members that typically volunteers are limited to one time slot a month.

APHS NHS faculty advisor Kristyn Pierfelice said their chapter started the tutoring program a few years ago in response to a growing number of students who needed help but couldn’t afford the cost of personal tutoring services.

“I received about an email a week asking for NHS volunteers to tutor, and we just didn’t have the manpower to fulfill all the requests,” Pierfelice said. “It’s hard for honor students… they are the most involved in school activities and sports, and also have lots of homework themselves to maintain high GPAs. This program gives the community the chance to utilize the (NHS) students without having them become over-extended.”

Pierfelice said that by having NHS students tutor on a rotating basis, it spreads the responsibility around.

Because students needing help come to the library on a walk-in basis, the tutors are prepared to assist with everything from helping a young child read a storybook out loud to explaining high school level homework. The volunteer tutors say help with geometry, algebra, science and study skills are most requested. While they have not kept track of how many students they have tutored, they said they usually have enough tutors available to meet demand. The tutors added if the service were better publicized they would likely need to add more volunteer tutors to each day it is offered.

Senior Taylor Marosi, 17, said that she considers being an NHS member an honor and she said it is important to her to use her time and talent to help others.

Marosi tutors at the library at least once a month, whenever there is an opening for her in the schedule. She said she helps grade school students practice reading out loud, and middle and high school students with math, history and study habits.

“A lot of them don’t know how to study, which is kind of hard to teach, but you give them what you’ve got and hopefully they can adapt it to their own ways,” Marosi said.

She said the students being tutored appreciate the help, even if a parent has made them come in for the tutoring.

Marosi said it feels good to help someone, and she wishes she’d had tutoring help as a freshman and sophomore when she felt a little lost.

She said her favorite tutoring moment occurred when she saw the enthusiasm of a young student she had helped read a storybook out loud.

“It was just a good experience because no matter how many words they tripped over – and it was a few – they just got so excited when you fixed a word and they tried to pronounce it,” Marosi said. “It was just incredible to see that kind of drive to learn.”

Senior Riley Downey, 17, agreed it felt good to see a student’s smile or relief when they learned a concept or how to solve a homework problem.

Downey, who joined NHS during her junior year and who began tutoring during the last school year, said she helped elementary-age students with math and science homework, as well as middle and high school students needing help with science, algebra and geometry homework.

“It feels really good because sometimes I feel like I have a hard time explaining things, and when they understand something I’m like ‘yes!,’ I successfully got something to them,” Downey said. “I don’t know if they can actually do it in school by themselves but it’s just nice when they’re able to do it for me by themselves.”

She said some parents are skeptical as to whether the NHS tutors can help their child, but are pleased when they return to find their child understands the material and has their homework done.

NHS junior Josh Cicotte, 17, wishes more parents would take advantage of the volunteers’ tutoring service for their children.

Cicotte, who has helped elementary and high school students with math, said sometimes it helps if he explains something in more than one way, because students have different learning styles.

“Some people learn by reading something; others learn by hearing it,” Cicotte said. “It often seems like people learn through different examples… sometimes (you) have to reword something or show it to them a different way and they’ll understand it better.”

He added that the best part of tutoring is helping a student understand an assignment.

“I can reshape something if I have to so that they can understand what’s going on,” Cicotte said. “That’s sort of reassuring – both that I know it and that I can help others.”

Allen Park Middle School eighth grader Walter Palmerio, 14, came to the library last Thursday for the first time for tutoring help with his algebra homework.

Palmerio said he had gotten “A” grades in math until this year, and that his parents say they were never good in math themselves.

He said he is a hands-on learner who doesn’t understand problems until the teacher shows an example in class.

Marosi helped him, he said, adding the hardest part of algebra for him is the letters and numbers used together – he finds it confusing.

He said he will definitely come back to the library tutors if he needs help again, and he will tell his math classmates about his positive experience.

“It’s really helpful knowing that there’s someone else helping you with your math instead of just yourself,” Palmerio said.

Teen librarian Karen Smith said she thinks the NHS students are providing a great service.

“It’s nice when a child needs help with homework and we can point them over there,” Smith said. “And it’s cool because a lot of the tutors are kids that we’ve known forever – we’ve seen them grow up… so it’s kind of cool to see that progression as well.”

Pierfelice is pleased that the NHS members can help the community while sharing tutoring duties without any becoming too overextended.

“I think the program has been a success and fills a big need within the community,” Pierfelice said.