400 Volunteer Tutors provide their time and guidance to help Chicago's children through Chicago Lights Tutoring. Each of them has a different experience. Read the profiles below to learn about three particular tutors.
A love for spending time with children drew Ellen Stegemann to Chicago Lights Tutoring last year. She was matched with Lavonee, who will be a third grader this fall.
Ellen will be Lavonee's tutor again this year, and says she loves seeing "what a difference you can make in such a short amount of time just once a week." Ellen is the practice manager of a physician's office, and she's a pro at managing the time she and Lavonee have each week. "We complete her homework first, and then do a craft project or read and play games."
Occasionally, the pair also has fun together outside tutoring. "I took her ice skating last year, and we had a great time," says Ellen. "She'd never been, and I hadn't been in 20 years or so." Ellen says she has also really enjoyed "seeing Lavonee open up and become more social with her peers and others in the program. I find great joy in just seeing her and knowing she's happy to see me."
Ellen offers this bit of advice to other tutors, and those who are considering becoming a tutor: "If you look for joy, you will certainly find it each and every night." She also recommends having "no expectations" for the time you'll spend with your student. "Just listen to your student," she says. "It's something we rarely do. Just listen--it can make a big difference."
Trevor Smith will begin his second season with Chicago Lights Tutoring and he'll once again be working with Chazz, who starts 8th grade this fall.
"Chazz is an extremely talented reader, writer, and artist," says Trevor. "Part of our focus together is encouraging him to continue to develop and explore his interests in those areas. The other part we focus on is improving his math and critical reasoning--areas he has struggled with in the past." When they began working together last fall, the two set a goal for Chazz to get an A. "I'm proud to say we were able to accomplish that!"
Trevor's family was involved in community service as he grew up. "I was encouraged early on to give back," he explains. Previous volunteer experiences included tutoring Hispanic adults and children in English as a Second Language (ESL), math, and general studies. "When I moved to Chicago last year, I was interested in finding volunteer opportunities, and a co-worker told me about the Chicago Lights program," he says. "The staff has been extremely friendly and encouraging." Trevor has given generously of his talents and taught an Excel computer class for Job Training students, in addition to being Chazz's tutor.
Trevor says one of his most memorable tutoring moments came during the program's Book Club last year. "Both students and mentors read books that focused on adolescents faced with challenging situations -- often involving parents or friends exercising poor judgment to the detriment of everyone around them," he says. "It was memorable for me because the students were willing to share their perspectives on what they would do or have done in a similar situation. To hear them open up about their lives and the challenges they face was very eye-opening to me. I also gained a lot of respect for the students," he adds. "In the face of these very real adversities, they have willingly chosen to take the hard route: to stand up and better themselves."
When he's not tutoring, Trevor works in accounting/finance for Grosvenor Capital Management, and he's also starting the MBA Program at the University of Chicago, concentrating on Analytic Management and Strategic Management. "Outside of my two biggest time commitments, I like to read, work out, play softball, and enjoy the wonderful city of Chicago."
This coming year Trevor and Chazz will be focusing on math and high school placement tests.
Trevor highly recommends the tutoring experience to anyone looking to get involved. "An educated world is a better world!" he says. Volunteering and tutoring are the absolute best ways to spread the positive momentum and be an encouraging voice to someone else who may need it the most. No matter who you are or what kind of background you have, just being there makes a difference."
A Lasting Relationship is
True Success for Chicago Lights Tutoring
Nearly 18 years ago, Sue Kostiwa, a volunteer who was then in her second year with Tutoring, met 10-year-old Latoya Zubowicz, who was new to Tutoring and starting fifth grade. "She was a sweet little thing when I met her," says Sue. "She was very open and receptive, and one of the first things we worked on was decimals."
Latoya remembers that she had just started at Galileo Magnet School when she was partnered with Sue. "I was far behind, but that regimen of meeting with her really helped. We worked on grammar, but the majority of it was math. Long division!" she remembers with a laugh. "I thought I was going to die, but now I work in finance." They worked together in Tutoring until Latoya graduated from high school.
Sue and Latoya's relationship quickly grew to encompass more than schoolwork. "When I met Sue, my father had recently gotten custody of me, and I had no mother figure," says Latoya. "My actual mother was never an actual mother figure. My first impression of Sue was that she was beautiful on the outside and the inside. I wanted to be like her."
"Living with my dad, every day was Domino's or tacos for dinner," says Latoya. "But after Tutoring Sue would take me to her house and teach me about balanced meals. She taught me life lessons beyond geometry and decimals.Coming from my background, I had never seen such a successful woman and such a different lifestyle -- where she lived, how she handled her business."
After some help from Sue with scholarship applications, Latoya attended Ball State University, where she ran track and dated Talmadge Hill, an Oak Park native and quarterback of the football team. The couple graduated in 2004 and now live in Hyde Park with their three-year-old son, Marek.
They had been engaged for nearly two years when Latoya told Sue she and Talmadge were going to get married.
Rather than opting for Latoya and Talmadge's suggestion that Sue get certified and officiate at their ceremony herself, Sue suggested Fourth Church pastor Adam Fronczek. "Adam is perfect," Sue says. "He's about the same age as they are. And Latoya's dad was happy that he had a Polish last name." They were married on August 1, 2009, with Pastor Fronczek presiding. And Sue was right there -- looking every bit the mother (figure) of the bride.