My Experience Starting a Peer Tutoring Program

Student, Bayyinah Dream Program

Mar   2016



When I turned the corner, the room was teeming with students. Across from the formula-saturated whiteboard, my AP chemistry teacher was surrounded by students in every direction waiting to be tutored, chattering frantically over the impending exam. I joined the end of the line, as study hall was our only opportunity to ask the teacher our pressing questions, but there was no way one individual could sufficiently help all of these students. I knew something had to be done, and I was determined to help. After much contemplation, I decided that I could start a free one-on-one peer tutoring program in order to supplement the overcrowded tutoring sessions at school. This program would also be geared toward helping families who could not afford such services.

I thought the public library would be a suitable venue since students from other local schools and homeschooled students in my community would also benefit. Once I had a place and students willing to tutor, I assumed all would be smooth sailing. But it wasn’t long before I began running into obstacles. The library had particular requirements for starting new programs. For instance, a staff member had to be present during our tutoring sessions, but the library had limited staff during the weekends, which was our optimal time. During the weekdays most tutors would be busy with homework and extracurricular activities after school. Because of these circumstances, I decided to use the library’s study rooms for our tutoring sessions, which did not require staff supervision and gave us flexibility with time.

However, more restrictions soon followed. Not only were we not permitted to hang up flyers in the library, but we were also not allowed to announce the program on the library’s website. Consequently, it was difficult to get the word out. Eventually I found a way to work around the library’s policies, using alternate venues to publicize the program by contacting local schools and distributing flyers at parent-teacher conferences.

As the coordinator of the program, I recruited and managed 20 tutors. Every week we tutored up to 15 students by helping them complete assignments, prepare for exams, and improve papers. Students were able to receive different perspectives on concepts, which helped them understand the subject matter better, instilled confidence, and raised test scores.

Everyone encounters tough problems, and perseverance is necessary to plow the fallow ground of adversity in order to obtain the harvest of diligence. On the last day of tutoring before summer, as I turned the corner and saw one of our students smiling, I knew my initiative had made a difference and would continue to make a difference for others to come. Such are the fruits of perseverance.

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About Fathima Haseefa

Fathima Haseefa graduated from BASIS Chandler, where she was editor of her school newspaper and received the Pulitzer Kirk Award for her contributions. She is also a recipient of the Schoneman Award for Outstanding Scholarship, Leadership, and Service. While in high school, she completed a journalism internship with AdmitSee, a peer-to-peer college prep company, and founded PeerAspire, a one-on-one tutoring program aimed to help students achieve their full potential. During her gap year, Fathima will be attending the Bayyinah Dream program, a nine-month Arabic intensive program in Dallas, Texas, and subsequently hopes to pursue a degree in biomedical engineering.