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Hannon Memorial Award - 2nd Place

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Shawn T. Hannon Memorial Excellence in Writing
Second Place
Making a Difference
Maya Gosztyla

At the sight of the algebra problem I’ve scribbled onto the paper, Beth’s usual relaxed, cheerful vibe vanishes into a shadow of confusion and frustration. Her brow furrows and she nibbles absentmindedly on her pencil eraser as she studies the equation as if it were another language. I can tell she doesn’t even know where to begin. This is going to be more work than I thought.

Beth is one of several students I tutor on a regular basis. Each of them has some particular concept they struggle with—in Beth’s case, solving quadratic equations seems the bane of her existence. And so they came to me for help. First it was just one, and then word began getting around that the probable candidate for valedictorian was offering free tutoring, and before I knew it I was spending every spare moment of my school day helping somebody or other with their homework.

The greatest challenge for me has always been relating to the students I tutor. I often have trouble understanding how other people can’t do the things that come so naturally to me. It’s not that they don’t try—in fact, my pupils often work harder to comprehend the lessons I give them than I do in my own classes. It’s always just felt so unfair that I was randomly given the ability to breeze through school with straight A’s, while others have to struggle just to maintain a C-average. I guess that’s why I decided to become a tutor.

Shortly after I began helping students with their lessons, it became blatantly clear that I simply couldn’t meet the staggering demand. Even many of the honor roll students had a subject or two they were barely passing, not to mention those who were failing practically every class they were enrolled in. It didn’t matter how badly I wanted to help—I was just one person. Every few days I have to turn someone down for help, my only excuse being that there are only so many hours in a day, days in a year. The blunt truth is that my school needs practically as many tutors as we have students, an obviously impossible feat.

Or… is it?

Beth may be sub-par in the realm of algebra, but her talent on the violin far exceeds my own. My fingers fumble over sections which seem elementary to her. That’s why Beth is my tutor too. A visit to her house usually entails an hour of math, followed by an hour of music. It’s a simple yet highly-beneficial arrangement for both of us, one which surely could be replicated in other situations.

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