SEG Peer Mentor Tutor Project

March 18, 2019

Public Information Officer

STUDENTS TUTOR STUDENTS IN REAL-TIME THROUGH THE INNOVATIVE FREE STUDENT ENGAGEMENT GRANT PEER MENTOR TUTOR PROGRAM AT ST. PHILIP’S COLLEGE

Students are invited to learn from some of the best---their peers 

An innovative new tutoring initiative allows St. Philip's College honor society students with challenging backgrounds to give back as thought leaders who tutor on a real-time mission of building the academic knowledge of struggling students while the realities of midterms, finals, graduation and transfer to four-year institutions approach for all this season.

For many years, St. Philip's College has graduated the largest number of at-risk students in the state of Texas. There are many success stories among these alumni, and most of their tutors were faculty members. Matching current degree candidates whoneed help with current degree candidates who can help is part of the college's innovative Student Engagement Grant Peer Mentor Tutor Program taking place in the Integrated Reading and Writing Lab Center in Room 201 of the college's G. J. Sutton Learning Center building at 1801 Martin Luther King Drive.

The Spring 2019 Peer Mentor Tutors service operates with the following student team members and the following hours:

  • Stephanie Gooding | Mondays and Wednesdays from 12:30-3 p.m. | Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m.-Noon 
  • James Kotchey | Mondays from 12:30-4:30 p.m. | Wednesdays from 12:30-3:30 p.m.
  • Keivan Perry | Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8-9 a.m. and 1:45-4:15 p.m.

Psychology faculty member Monique Johnson Dixon and center lab academic program specialist Alicia Dominguez are the college's original SEG Peer Mentor Tutor Project co-directors.

"The peer mentor tutors project came about for the reading and writing lab because we have no tutors onsite at the lab. We were trying to be creative in sourcing tutors who are thought leaders. Ms. Dominguez and I both thought, we have phenomenal students who are talented. We want to give them an opportunity to help in the lab. What we have learned so far is that peer-to-peer mentor tutoring engages students as learners as it also enhances the understanding of students as teachers,” said Johnson Dixon

"Initially what I did was write a Student Engagement Grant proposal highlighting the importance of having tutors and having peers who students can connect with. The special population we are working involves assisting with developmental English and reading students who are or may be kind of at-risk. It was important for us to identify students who would be gifted enough to mentor, lead, break down walls and obstacles and then be open to tutoring at the same time," Johnson Dixon said.

"We have Student Engagement Grants---funded by donors to St. Philip's College---that allow us to actively look for students with 2.5 and higher GPAs and an A or B in reading or writing courses, or even psychology. Of course, they have to possess a great personality and patience to work with students who have challenges, because tutoring is a highly specialized profession. The financial rewards for their leadership and giving back at the end of each semester are $1,000 for full-time service and $500 for part time service, with a minimum of eight hours served in the lab each week. When they participate in peer mentor tutor training, they begin to develop an e portfolio..." said Johnson Dixon.

“Through tutoring, we are taking students from the remediation level to the college level without saying that. Nobody wants to show their weakness and we maneuver through that. I evaluate the peer mentors and we talk about the moments we really were mentoring and when we were really tutoring. They reflect and write about it, so they can see the big-and-small differences between mentoring and tutoring. I’d love to see this grow,” said Dominguez.

“Through student-to-student conversations, there’s an intimacy. As professionals, we don’t speak the student language. The student-to-student vocabulary chosen is exactly what the students tutoring and the students being tutored have needed to hear. The student tutors have had experiences with multiple instructors at St. Philip’s College, and they can feel comfortable as tutors, recommending how to work with specific instructors,” Dominguez said.

“I’ve done a bit of research, and many students feel it's a weakness to ask for help from professors---and going to an equal is not as intimidating. Ms. Johnson Dixon and I have the word ‘tutoring’ in the project, but through mentoring that may not even be subject-related---informal mentoring on stress and other things going on in their lives---their peers can help them get past that---because they get it. That personal moment really happens. Everyone wants to be successful in college, but when you start going down the rabbit hole and you can't see your way up… the reality is it’s very different from high school. We are trying to have students teach students to become successful students, often through soft skills. I tell my tutors, ‘if you can’t get a student to a skill base academically, call me over,’ but generally they can break it down in their terms, because they have experienced those fears and walked those terms. I think peers are essential. Once students know ‘I have somebody who really understands me,’ then we can get down to the skill-based learning,” said Dominguez.

A scaling up of qualified honor society students as tutors came when college employee Maria Botello, the advisor of the college's Phi Theta Kappa honor society chapter, learned of the initiative. 

"Ms. Botello said, 'We want to help you.' Their PTK students who were already tutors for other honor society students came to serve with us as peer tutors. Some are part of both honor society tutor and peer tutor programs," Johnson Dixon explained.

"We have some great students who participate in this. Most right now are in the lab. We have three students with phenomenal academic backgrounds working there directly. Two are psychology majors and one is in construction management. We interview and vet our student tutors as well. It’s important for us to know they can relate to students and come from different backgrounds, and their stories include a lot of challenges and a lot of obstacles. And it helps students who need tutoring open up to them," said Johnson Dixon.

Some of the peer mentor tutors go into the classrooms just to introduce themselves. They say, 'I came from nothing and I am here to help you succeed.' They are just great. We get a lot of great energy from all of them. When we are interviewing them, it’s wonderful... just so talented and bright. It’s a lot of hand-picking for these roles," Johnson Dixon said.

"Each tutor has an extensive journey. One coming from an abusive situation, one coming from being from being told they will never amount to anything and one who is actually a recovering drug addict. They have all pushed forward and are doing great things, and they come and talk to me extensively," said Johnson Dixon.

"While it was very strategic, it was also a challenge to get started. I had to elicit the help of other instructors to get folks from their classroom to go my way. It was strategic and we had to work hard to get these three students onboard. One tutor said, 'I am applying again.' " Johnson Dixon said.

"It's such a great program and students really help make the program a success. That’s important for Mrs. Dominguez and me. My feeling was we didn’t have these tutors in the lab and I think it's a great idea to tap into the students we have. I had to collaborate with Mrs. Dominguez on what she wants, as she is their immediate supervisor. We also get together and find out the tutoring team requirements we want to meet, and what sort of agreement language we will prepare for the students. We work very well together, needless to say. The student tutors say, 'You are great to work for,' and they have been great cheerleaders.” 

Words from the Tutors 

Keivan Perry (Full-time psychology concentration student transferring to Our Lady of the Lake in Fall 2019)

I was a former student at Cherokee County High School in Centre, Ala., born into a lower-class family, where opportunities were limited. Despite all odds, I was the first person to graduate from my immediate family. I also experienced extreme forms of verbal and physical abuse first-hand. In addition to this, I also had to educate myself, being that my parents had very little knowledge regarding education, as they were both high school dropouts. I always knew I wanted a different destination for myself thus; I used my own trials and tribulations as fuel, promising myself that I would aspire to be better and make a difference in the world, for as long as I live. When selected to be a Peer Mentor Tutor at St. Phillips College for the Rose Thomas INRW lab, I was extremely honored! This project is so much bigger than I am, as I get to help individuals who come from difficult and challenging backgrounds, such as I have, who need motivation and encouragement to be successful. Through this project, I hope to inspire all those I meet. I am a psychology student with high aspirations of becoming a clinical psychologist. I will be attending Our Lady of the Lake University this fall 2019, to finish my undergraduate studies. Afterwards, I hope to attend an Ivy League institution, where I will obtain a Ph.D. I also want to author several books and open up a center for less fortunate kids, that reflect the ideas of the Peer Mentor project that I am currently apart of. Knowing this… I am hopeful for the future!

Stephanie Gooding (Full-time psychology concentration student graduating Fall 2019 and transferring to TAMU-SA in Spring 2020)

My name is Stephanie Gooding and I am graduating Fall 2019 with honors and an associate degree in psychology. I am an officer in Phi Theta Kappa, Psi Kappa Chapter, which is an international two-year college honor society. In addition to the many events I am involved with through Phi Theta Kappa, I am also a participant in the Student Engagement Grant for Peer Mentor Tutoring. Looking back at my life, and all the obstacles I faced, I see that the most rewarding aspect of the Peer Mentor Tutor program is that I am able to give back some of the help I was given. In some cases, I can provide help that I did not have access to when I was younger. I grew up in a very dysfunctional environment, which ultimately led to entering foster care at age 13. I was fortunate enough to have been adopted at age 14. While being adopted into a very loving and stable home, I still had issues adjusting. I had always done well in school, but my unresolved childhood issues prevented me from actually finishing high school. I received my GED when I was 17 and attempted college a few times before taking a long absence from the idea of furthering my education. After many years of trials, tribulations and therapy, I decided that it was well past time for me to get an education. At 39, I returned to St. Philip’s College to work on gaining my associate degree in psychology. I will transfer to Texas A&M University-San Antonio in Spring of 2020 to pursue my bachelor of science in psychology. From there I will work on my master’s degree. I want to practice psychotherapy and engage in research. It has been a long and arduous road to this point, and I am proud of myself for breaking through the many barriers that have impeded my success. If there was ever a living, breathing example of overcoming stereotypes, stigmas and statistics, I am that example! The Peer Mentor Tutor program has taught me two valuable aspects: to be more humble and to be an understanding person. It is amazing to help someone, even with the smallest of things, because sometimes a small obstacle can keep one from achieving their goals. It makes me proud to know that I can offer help to people and gives me a lot of personal satisfaction!

James Kotchey, (Part-time construction management concentration student graduating in Spring or Fall of 2020)

To say a bit about myself, is to say a lot! The years that have come to pass have been a patient teacher for me. There was a time when I once defied in the face of authority. As a first-generation college student, not to mention the first of my family to graduate high school and from Marion ISD, it may not be a surprise that I come from a background of poverty, abuse and neglect. My upbringing led me to the life of a young adult struggling with addiction. One day, somebody who believed in me decided to never give up on me. That person got me into a rehabilitation program, and eventually into college. Without her, I would have faced a minimum five-year prison sentence. Today, I am free to live and explore the possibilities awaiting me! Obtaining my education has lent me many opportunities. As a late-sophomore, a 4.0 and inducted PTK member---and now a Student Peer Mentor Tutor---I have been able to enjoy the gift that is to believe in someone else. I see students walk into the tutoring lab all the time lacking in their own self-confidence... not believing in themselves. Today I can pay it forward; today I can believe in them without giving up! The opportunity to take my strengths and serve the community has helped not only in aiding me in my own personal growth, but is also giving me the chance to see others flourish. The light in a student’s eyes when they develop an understanding of a concept is just so exciting! I cannot help but express my gratitude to those who have believed in me along the way, and what better way than through the Peer Mentor Tutoring program offered at SPC.

For details on the Peer Tutoring project at St. Philip's College, reach out to Monique Johnson Dixon, psychology faculty member and Student Engagement Grant Peer Mentor Tutor Project Director, at 210-486-2224, mjohnson8@alamo.edu, or Integrated Reading and Writing Lab Center academic program specialist Alicia Dominguez at 210-486-2868, adominguez@alamo.edu. (Courtesy images)