By Kelcey Norris
A group of freshmen at Youngstown State University dedicated their first year on campus to enriching the education of the younger generation. The Honors Helping Future Scholars program started in the YSU Honors College.
They have been able to connect YSU students virtually with 44 middle and high schoolers at New Castle and Valley Christian schools to tutor them in a variety of subjects and earn volunteer hours.
Taylor Sebastiano, a freshman biology major on the pre-med track, explained how she and a few close friends started the initiative. Sebastiano said she came up with the idea with fellow YSU freshman Bronson Deangelo, who’s also a biology major on the pre-med track.
“We wanted to get a team of doers together, around four people who will be able to get this off the ground, because it was just an idea at the time. He came to me and two of his closest friends and started to make the whole thing happen. We run the whole thing now,” Sebastiano said.
There are currently 11 YSU Honors College students participating as virtual tutors as part of the Honors Helping Future Scholars program. They’ve clocked over 50 total hours in the first semester, with plans to expand in the future.
“It’s been an enriching experience and a unique leadership opportunity, especially as a freshman in college. We’re very thankful to reach out and help the future scholars of tomorrow and years down the line, but we’re also able to help our peers in the Honors College gain that experience,” Sebastiano said.
She explained her role as a coordinator between the schools and the tutors.
“We send out the emails, organize who’s tutored and who does the tutoring,” Sebastiano said. “What Bronson and I will also do is sit on [Webex], and we’re there if anyone needs, sort of supervising and making sure everything’s going smoothly. The tutor and the student reach out to each other and form that communication and educational relationship that really makes a difference.”
They have plans for an informal ACT preparation session where tutors can answer questions or concerns the high school students have before taking the big test.
Joseph Lasher, a freshman music education major, moderates the tutoring sessions as well.
“I monitor each tutoring session just to make sure tutors and students are staying on track, and, if any technical difficulties arise, I’m the one to fix those. I’ll also remind tutors of their meetings with emails,” Lasher said.
As an aspiring educator in instrumental music, Lasher said he’s learned valuable teaching skills already without having yet stepped into the classroom physically.
“It’s taught me how to work one-on-one with someone, like in private lessons in my case,” he said. “More importantly, it’s taught me patience. When you’re working virtually, not everything is going to work right off the start, so it’s important to be able to adapt and be patient with your students.”
The YSU Honors College will soon be accepting applications for the Honors Helping Future Scholars program to tutor during the fall semester.
“I’m so thankful to the Honors College for giving us this opportunity and also bringing awareness to the program,” Sebastiano said. “We’d love to get more tutors, and we’d love to expand our range of subjects. We have the core subjects now, and some of our tutors do foreign language, but we want to broaden that.”