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August 6, 2021

Student Voices: The value of getting — and giving — peer tutoring

Screenshot of peer tutors from The Study Hard Project, founded by Ava Hazzouri.

 

by Ava Hazzouri, 12th grade, Kingston, Penn.

Having a tutor helped me learn in a way that made sense. Due to my learning differences, an individualized approach was critical for me to meet my goals in school. Once I learned how to learn and succeed academically with one-on-one help, I decided to become a tutor myself.

In my sophomore year of high school, I launched The Study Hard Project, a peer-tutoring initiative which is free and fun for everyone. It’s run by high school students from across my region in Northeastern Pennsylvania and serves middle and high school students from all over the country and even a couple from overseas. My favorite thing about The Study Hard Project is that anyone involved can be a student one week to get some help for themselves and a tutor the next week to help someone else.

Having a tutor helped me learn in a way that made sense.

While the tutors volunteer to satisfy the service requirements at their high schools, they receive much more. For example, Shawna, a tutor from Wyoming Seminary Upper School, said, “Working with Study Hard, I’ve learned that empowering others is the best way to feel my own power.” Our tutor from Scranton Preparatory School, Molly, shared, “I never realized how smart I was until I started tutoring. It makes me more confident in my work and in myself.”

When the pandemic hit, we moved from in-person study sessions to Zoom sessions. Now, we have both online and in-person tutoring, SAT tutoring, College Prep webinars, Extracurricular Clubs (The Book Club, Wellness Club, Creativity Club and Community Service Club) and Study Skills Camps.

My favorite thing about The Study Hard Project is that anyone involved can be a student one week to get some help for themselves and a tutor the next week to help someone else.

The benefits of one-on-one tutoring are well-documented. Approximately 30% of middle and high school students are tutored in various subjects. In middle school, students form habits that impact academic success later on. Tutoring is an effective way to help middle school students take responsibility, improve study skills and manage their time wisely. For high schoolers, improving school performance can help boost confidence and decrease the impact of normal teen stress. Tutoring also helps keep at-risk students in school until they graduate from high school.

Unfortunately, tutoring can be expensive. With a Google search (“cost of tutoring in the United States”), I found that tutoring in academic subjects can range on average from $25 to $100 an hour and from $45 to $300 an hour for SAT tutoring. This is concerning and raises the question, are the benefits of one-on-one tutoring reserved for privileged students?

…are the benefits of one-on-one tutoring reserved for privileged students?

The United States student body is diverse and includes more low income, minority and underserved students each year. According to research, racial, ethnic, gender and social-class differences impact academic opportunities and affect students’ interest and preparation as early as middle school. These early disadvantages produce educational disparities in high school, on college campuses and in the job force.

Peer-tutoring is an actionable, cost effective (often, free!) way to level the academic playing field for middle and high school students across the country. The best part is that when students help students, everyone is better for it. Research shows that peer-tutoring leads to an increase in academic performance, school attendance, socialization, self-esteem and attitude toward school for all involved, and I can attest to all of it!

Peer-tutoring is an actionable, cost effective (often, free!) way to level the academic playing field…

The impact we’re having on one another is beyond what I ever imagined. One of our eighth graders told us that he went from a 54% average to a 91% in math from participating in weekly tutoring with us. Students have shared that learning from their peers feels less threatening for them than asking for teachers’ help. Another one of our students said he feels awkward asking teachers his questions because he worries they’ll get mad that he wasn’t listening in class. He says he feels free to ask us anything. That’s our goal, to be an easily accessible, safe space, where learning feels doable and fun.

The Study Hard project is open to all middle and high school students interested in meeting their academic potential, and that includes you! Check it out at studyhardproject.com or on Instagram at @studyhardnepa.


Ava Hazzouri is a 17-year-old rising senior at Wyoming Seminary Upper School in Kingston, Penn. She is the founder of The Study Hard Project, a volunteer organization that aims to level the academic playing field for middle and high school students in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Ava is an advocate for students with learning differences and is the history department student representative at her school. She’s involved in numerous clubs, is a peer-tutor and volunteers in the writing center on campus. Ava enjoys running, making art and baking. She is proud of her Lebanese heritage, values her relationships with family and friends and is obsessed with her fish, Merlin.

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