Tutoring center at English High School a lifeline, safe haven for Boston students

Students at The English High School may arrive at the Alumni & Friends Tutoring Center for homework help, mentoring, or they might just be lured in with the promise of free snacks. But they’ll leave with valuable lessons.

EHS senior Thomas Thermidor of Dorchester starting going to the tutoring center when he saw some cookies in there, “Being the high school kid I am, I was hungry at the time,” he said with a laugh.

That was two years ago, and now Thermidor is in touch with Sage Marsters, the tutoring center director, every week not only for help with college scholarships and essays but for mentorship.

“I knew Sage was someone I could reach out to to talk about literally anything,” said Thermidor who moved to the United States from Haiti in 2013 not knowing how to speak English.

The high school senior, who plays sports and participates in student government, plans to go to college next year to study business.

“I wasn’t born in this country so I definitely look to give back,” said Thermidor, who said the tutoring center has given him motivation to succeed in college.

The Alumni & Friends Tutoring Center started as a writing center in 2011 and with generous support from George Mavridis, son of an EHS alumnus, expanded further in 2018.

Experienced volunteer tutors who are often retired teachers work one-on-one with students and also participate in the classroom to help on a broader scale.

Marsters describes the program as “the little tutoring center that could.”

“It’s a great atmosphere to be in and we really enjoy working with the students,” said Marsters.

When the in-person community environment of the tutoring center switched to an online format due to the pandemic, Marsters didn’t let it slow her down.

Eight remote tutors including one working all the way from Chile have continued to help students work through everything from physics and biology to algebra and English.

“I can bring in tutors from anywhere and they can be there remotely in the classroom,” said Marsters.

One tutor, Lynn Robbins, has been with the center from its very inception helping with social studies, writing and English.

“I’ve grown a lot and learned a lot doing this and I really love the kids. I find them interesting, fascinating, fun,” Robbins said.

Although Marsters, Robbins and Thermidor all said they can’t wait for the day they can be back in person, lessons from the pandemic will carry into the future of the tutoring center.

Marsters said, “I think going forward I will definitely  explore ways we can have both in-person and maybe some virtual tutoring happening.”

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