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Need Tutors? Call the Cool Kids (a.k.a High Schoolers)


On Tuesday afternoons, high school junior Cristina Essex and Emily Sternburgh make their way to Mill Creek Middle School Media Center to help sixth- through eighth-graders with their homework.

It turns out, said middle-school students, Cristina and Emily know how to explain things just right. “From them, I can probably learn it a different way,” said seventh-grader Giselle Grillo, while working on pre-algebra homework.

Seventh grade math and social studies teacher Joe Thompson leads hour-long after-school tutoring sessions on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Last fall, as the only teacher in a roomful of students, he had a difficult time giving each student help, he said. So he called on the high school National Honor Society.

“I thought if we had our best students from the high school come over, we could help a lot more kids,.”

Since late fall, about 15 high school students have helped at the sessions, which Thompson said has been a big help.

“What we see in the classroom is a teacher will explain it and then a kid will say it, even in the exact same way, but for some reason the other student will understand it coming from their peer,” Thompson said. “There’s something about them working together that I can’t replicate as a teacher.”

Junior Emily Sternburgh lends a hand to a Mill Creek Middle School student
Junior Emily Sternburgh lends a hand to a Mill Creek Middle School student

High school students said they enjoy giving back in a way that helps younger students.

“I just thought it would be fun,” Cristina said. “If I had had this in middle school, it would have been nice. We’re not as intimidating as teachers can be.”

Added Emily: “They have the same mindset we do, still being students.”

Middle-school students said they appreciate help staying caught up in class.

“It’s helpful and kind that they take time out of their day to help us,” said seventh-grader Kayla Merritt.

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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