Mar 292005
Authors: Daniel Linn

Two students talk quietly in a small room in the El Centro office, discussing the skin layers of worms and the structure of amoebas.

El Centro, the university's advocacy office for the recruitment, retention, graduation and cultural pride of Latinos/Hispanics, might seem like a strange place for such topics, but it is all part of the new A+ Tutoring program, which seeks to connect graduate students with undergraduates eager to receive extra direction in their academics.

The program is free to all CSU and Front Range Community College students and will continue throughout the spring semester. Tutoring is available on a walk-in basis between 5 and 7 p.m. Mondays.

Rebecca Davidson, a first year graduate student working toward her Ph-D in Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management and a former teaching assistant, uses the time she has away from her graduate studies to help students with their biology classes.

"I was bummed out that I wouldn't be able to teach anymore," Davidson said.

Davidson found the tutoring program through Rich Salas, the assistant director at El Centro, who helped connect undergraduates with their graduate student counterparts.

Davidson focuses on helping students with biology, but she also helps students develop healthy habits for academic success.

"I had a student come in a panic the day before a test," Davidson said. "We worked to improve his study habits."

Davidson said the program benefits graduate students as well as undergraduates by keeping the graduate student refreshed. The program also helps graduates develop teaching skills.

"Its hard to find grad students to tutor when they may already be really extended," Davidson said.

El Centro is currently looking for volunteer tutors in the areas of Spanish, math, engineering and psychology for the program.

Guadalupe Salazar, director of El Centro and creator of the A+ tutoring program, said she would like to see students make connections useful long after graduation and that graduate students have a lot to offer current undergrads.

"Part of our mission is getting our students to make those connections so they can graduate," Salazar said. "Its people like Rebecca that really value giving back to our students."

Salazar, who used tutoring in her years as a college student, knows how valuable a tutoring program can be.

"Just having my tutor sit there with me – it gave me the confidence to do my homework," Salazar said.

Salazar achieved a 4.0 Grade Point Average her senior year while raising four children and said that hard work, studying and attending classes are all key to making the grade.

"They know the information and they can do well, it's just that many times they get overwhelmed," Salazar said.

Salazar came up with the idea for the tutoring program while brainstorming with other professionals in El Centro and started it under the university-wide effort to make tutoring available to all students.

"When (CSU) President (Larry) Penley did the university panel he asked the students if they all had tutoring available," Salazar said.

Salazar is determined to see the program succeed.

"Somehow I am going to really try to make it work, because there is a great need," she said.

Julio Riebeling, a junior interior design major that takes advantage of the tutoring, comes in almost every week to receive help.

"Its very valuable," said Riebeling.

Riebeling appreciates the personal attention the tutoring program offers on a large campus such as CSU.

"Coming from a small college with all the attention you want, CSU is a lot different," Riebeling said.

Riebeling said he found the tutoring very helpful and found success on a recent test with the help of Rebecca Davidson.

"She gives me study tips," Riebeling said. "She helps me a lot."

Riebeling believes taking the first step may be most difficult for students who may need tutoring.

"I think it's hard to find people to come in for the first time," Riebeling said.

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