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ECC Tutoring Center celebrates 20 years

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Tutor Claudette Hargrove works with student Johnazi Bobbitt at the Edgecombe Community College Tutoring Center, which is celebrating its 20th year.

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From Contributed Reports

Monday, October 8, 2018

For the past 20 years, Edgecombe Community College’s Tutoring Center has helped thousands of students pass classes, graduate with credentials and even weather life’s ups and downs.

Vicky Bolivar, who graduated in 2015 with degrees in Spanish and business administration, raves about the college’s Tutoring Center. Shawn Smith, who is studying accounting at ECC, says the tutors help build confidence. And Shirley Tate, a human services technology student, calls the tutors “remarkable.”

Over the years, Edgecombe Community College officials estimate that the Tutoring Center has assisted up to 40 percent of each graduating class. Primarily, tutors help students with basic math and English problems, said Tamara Frank-Pourvady, who has been a tutor in the center since it opened in 1998.

“Over time, there has been a high demand for assistance with beginner-level computer skills,” she said. “If students have a challenge that is not in a particular tutor’s skill set, we’ll find another tutor who can help.”

Teresa Howell, who coordinates the Tutoring Center, says the center is critical for student success.

“We get to know our students and their circumstances,” she said. “If a student has a personal issue, tutors can refer them to the appropriate support personnel. Our tutors do much more than tutor. They often act as mentors.”

Shawn Smith is a non-traditional student who says heading back to school in her 40s was difficult. She knew the subject matter, but she needed help focusing. Tutors helped her get back on a solid academic track.

“I had been out of school for so long, they helped me relearn how to study,” said Smith, who expects to get her degree in 2019. “They have made such a difference. I recommend the Tutoring Center, for sure.”

Vicky Bolivar says she visited the Tutoring Center every day when she was a student — whether she needed help or not. But when she did need help, the tutors — particularly Frank-Pourvady — made a lasting impression.

“I couldn’t have done it without them,” she said. “Tamara helped me so much. She just had a way of helping me understand.”

Edgecombe Community College’s Tutoring Center consists of two classrooms — one on the Rocky Mount campus and the other on the Tarboro campus. Free to students, the Tutoring Center is open Monday through Friday.

In 1998, a student counselor, Trevor Lane, and a student support specialist, Judy Tant, proposed the idea of a Tutoring Center to college officials. Starting with just four part-time tutors, the center’s tutoring staff has grown to a full-time tutor and 15 part-time tutors.

“We operate on a drop-in basis,” Frank-Pourvady said. “Appointments are not necessary. “We have plenty of space, and we have tutors in place at all times, so there are no delays when students need help.”

Howell says the tutors often work as a connecting thread, linking students to the appropriate resource. That’s why it’s important for students and tutors to develop a trusting relationship.

“When tutors know more about the students, they can more effectively tutor the students,” Howell said.

Tutors also work closely with instructors, often auditing the class themselves to get a better handle on exactly what is being taught in the classroom. On occasion, instructors drop by the Tutoring Center to consult with the tutors.

“We try to maintain the continuity and style of the instructor,” Howell said. “But the tutors often break down the subject matter in a different way to enable students to better grasp the concepts.”

When Tate needs help, she said she knows the Tutoring Center is her best bet.

“I’m blown away by how much it helps me,” said Shirley Tate, who expects to graduate next year. “Even though I understand the coursework, the tutors give me the assurance that I need to really get it.”

Her advice to other students?

“If you’re struggling, go to the Tutoring Center,” she said. “They will help you.”

At a time when budget crunches forced many community colleges to close their tutoring centers, Edgecombe Community College remained committed to keeping its center open.

“I think that really says a lot about the college, that it kept the Tutoring Center open when it was really hard to do so,” Frank-Pourvady said. “We make a difference. We help students succeed.”

The public is invited to join the Tutoring Center staff on Thursday to celebrate 20 years of helping students. Celebrations will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in Fleming 209 on the Tarboro campus and in the Barnes Building Boardroom on the Rocky Mount campus.

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