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Beyond the Farm

The Tutoring Experience

Over the past decade, over 25 Stanford undergraduates have served as writing tutors for the Hope House Scholars Program. Most return to tutor for multiple quarters, and many for multiple years. Below are reflections by several undergraduate writing tutors.

Reflection from Connie M., who graduated in 2014 and is moving on to become a middle school teacher in New York

"Tutoring at Hope House has probably been the single most important part of my Stanford experience in terms of informing what I find to be meaningful and important work. It’s influenced how I’m going to teach in the future in that I will never underestimate anyone. And I want to expose my middle school students to philosophy and abstract thought, because it’s so good for people, and there’s no reason why it should be relegated to the small percentage of people who are able to access the professors and the resources we have here at Stanford.

A lot of times, we think of service in terms of you giving something to somebody: you have something that is coveted by another, and you impart it on them. But I’ve gotten so much from Hope House. It’s been essential to my experience at Stanford."

Reflection from Jessie S. after her first year tutoring at Hope House

"I liked it when we would split off into smaller groups during tutoring sessions. There were a few women I worked with for several weeks, so I was able to see them develop, and I got to know their personalities. Once you know someone better, you can help her connect to the texts more."

Reflection from Mackenzie Y. after her first year tutoring at Hope House

"It was challenging, but at graduation it was really great to hear the women say that we actually made them feel intelligent, and that we helped them realize they could set goals and accomplish them."

Reflection from Dawn C.

"If I was asked to name the single most influential experience I've had at Stanford, it would be my work with Hope House. I got involved in the program through a fluke. In the fall quarter of my freshman year I received an email advertising for a new tutor. The message was accidentally posted to my freshman dorm list because the available position wasn't intended for a freshman. I was so excited at the description of the position that I failed to read all the way through the email, missing the parts stating that the program was looking for upperclassmen, and that male and minority applicants were encouraged to apply. As a Caucasian freshman I didn't fit the profile, but my enthusiasm outweighed my inexperience, and I was granted an interview and hired within a week.

I wasn't sure what to expect on my first visit to Hope House. Though I'd grown up in low-income areas and witnessed drug dependence and alcoholism in my neighborhood and the families of my friends I worried what it would be like to teach women who were newly sober and and just beginning to fight their own addictions. When we arrived that first day, I was amazed at the enthusiasm of the women in the program. Though their participation in our class was mandatory they all seemed grateful to be there. The classwork was hard for a majority of the women, many of whom hadn't finished high school or even grade school. But as much as some of them struggled, they were all the more proud of themselves and amazed at their own achievements. At the end of each quarter I hear women laud their own success in an academic environment, a foreign setting to most of them.

Since my very first tutoring session I've grown not only as a teacher and a mentor but as a person. Each quarter I meet a number of incredible women who've persevered through extreme adversity. As I read and write essays with them I witness their remarkable academic progress. I am also exposed to their transformative recovery progress as they confront their past and prepare for their futures. My role is much more complex than just that of a tutor. I've befriended many of the women, and I am not only a teacher to them but a friend and sometimes even an inspiration. They see me, a "Stanford student," a figure of success and opportunity, and they know that they themselves are in an actual Stanford class. And thus education doesn't seem so incredibly far away. Not only is Stanford so real and so close, but to these women who would never have expected it, it is a part of their lives. By the end of our program, their graduation from the class is an accomplishment they'll forever possess.

I look forward to the next two years of work with Hope House. It's an excellent way to 'burst the bubble' that I live in here at Stanford. But more than a reality check, each session at Hope House is a learning experience as much for me as for the women whom I tutor. As they struggle to rediscover themselves I'm reminded to question who I am, what I want, and where I see my life going. In my microcosm of midterms and mini-skirts these amazing women keep me grounded and grateful for the really important parts of my life, which right now includes my time with them."

Reflection from Julia C.

"I think about Hope House a lot and the time I spent there and what I learned.  After working in television for a little bit, I ended up doing New York City Teaching Fellows and taught High School in the South Bronx... much of what I learned from Hope House definitely translated into my teaching.  It taught me about instilling confidence in my students to allow each to flourish.  It also reminded me of the importance of the relationship between the educator and the student.  If you can foster a relationship of mutual respect and trust, teaching and learning becomes much easier."

Reflection from Catherine Y.

"I feel very lucky to have been a Hope House tutor because the experience inspired me to become more connected with my community. After graduating from college, I went on to law school, became interested in social justice issues, and worked at a number of places providing services to underserved populations. I believe that I subconsciously framed my career goals in terms of helping break down barriers that hinder people from realizing their full potential because I had seen the Hope House women struggle to change themselves."