Ivory Coast native Aichata Traoré, 21, is an accounting major and one of the 21 volunteering student tutors at the Center for Academic Success (CAS) this semester.
She spoke absolutely no English when she moved to the United States three years ago and attended a 6-month course in a private school to learn the language before enrolling at Pierce College.
French is Ivory Coast’s official language and it is also Traoré’s first language.
She is helping other students improve their skills in “the language of love.”
Traoré spends at least four hours a week at the CAS, predominantly on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Her motivation to volunteer came from Marie Agel, professor of French, who informed her about the lack of tutors on campus.
“There’s no one to do it and people need help,” Traoré compassionately said.
Reaching out to other students has shown her she has the possibility of asking for help from others as well.
“I used to spend my Tuesdays at home, pretending to be studying, but I would be on Facebook instead, and now, I can actually come here and get help with English.”
The volunteering program has shown her a place of focus and given her the motivation she needs.
Volunteering and being tutored have both been beneficial to Traoré who states that she is doing much better than the previous semesters.
“I can give and receive help at the same time,” Traoré concluded.
The CAS has started offering a series of volunteering opportunities for students since August.
The tutoring center is a resource for students to find other ways of learning, especially if they don’t understand their teacher’s methods.
Due to the major budget crisis in California, college budgets have been severely cut, including at Pierce College, which has drastically reduced its spending.
Hourly faculty and counselors have not been rehired, personnel who quit or retire are very often not replaced and many of Pierce’s resources have been eliminated altogether.
Crystal Kiekel, Director of the CAS noted that tutors and student worker budgets have been completely eliminated.
Kiekel is hopeful to be able to hire new tutors.
“There is the Federal Student Worker program and there are grants that are funded through a third party,” she said.
The 10 paid tutors the CAS has hired are not nearly enough to cover the students’ needs at Pierce, according to Kiekel.
Faculty members make up 26 out of the 47 volunteering tutors.
Marra Hamma, Professor of English at Pierce since 2001, is one of them.
Hamma’s involvement and dedication in student success is very apparent through her speech.
“I was horrified by all the cutbacks,” she said. “For years, I would send my students to the Writing Lab, the former CAS, and thought ‘If there’s no one there anymore, nobody can send their students there,’ so I figured I could help out.”
Hamma showed dedication and support, especially when asked about her thoughts on student involvement in the volunteering program.
“I think student volunteers are most valuable because I think students feel more comfortable talking to their peers,” she said.
Hamma also pointed out a misconception many students have of college.
“Students have this idea that they have to do it all alone because it’s college and they have to succeed on their own,” she explained.
“The truth is nobody does it on their own. Everybody needs help,” she added. “We are all in this together.”
The English professor believes that knowing somebody understands your problem is very helpful in itself.
With enthusiasm shining through their smile, Kiekel, Hamma and Traoré all agreed that the Center for Academic Success is a home for solidarity.
Kiekel got the idea of this program after attending a conference in Texas over the summer.
After pitching the idea, it took a group effort from faculty members, students and staff to set the new tutoring center up.
When things got financially tough, this alliance and its dedication helped sustain the tutoring center.
“Everyone pitched in to get this going,” Kiekel said in an e-mail interview. “This is a Student Success program, and student success takes a village!”
The Center for Academic Success welcomes students who want to give or receive help on a daily basis. For more information, please visit the CAS in Village 8401.