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Georgetown Tutors Local High School Students at White House

White House Mentoring

From left, LaToya Tufts (C'12), Maredith Hannon (C'12), Margaret Debelius, lecturer in the English department and associate director of the Writing Program, Hope Ellis (C'12) and Conor Finnegan (C'12) tutored local high school students at The White House on digital communications on May 6.

May 3, 2012 – Several professors, students and others from the English department have been spending an hour every Sunday at the White House mentoring local high school students who came to Georgetown last year.

The sessions began on April 15 and end on May 6.

The high school students, many from disadvantaged neighborhoods, came to Georgetown on Nov. 8, 2011, to listen to First Lady Michelle Obama talk about college as part of the White House Leadership and Mentoring Initiative.

Responsible Relationship

The Sunday mentoring sessions, which covered creative writing, digital communications, college application writing and professional correspondence, are also part of that initiative.

“[Georgetown] in general wants to have a kind of productive and responsible relationship with the local D.C. community, and especially with students in the K-12 years,” says associate professor of English Ricardo Ortiz, one of the mentors.

Ortiz talked with the high school students about how to write a letter of personal introduction as if it were written to a college dean or hiring manager.

“They understood that the lesson to be learned here is that this is going to be one of those ways of coming into the word and being a member of a community and society that’s very public,” he says.

A Picture’s Worth

Some of the writing lessons matched those that the professors use in classrooms at Georgetown.

“At the end [of my session], I said ‘these are the assignments I give my college students,’” says English professor David Gewanter, another mentor.

Gewanter had the students write about photographs, including one taken by Henri Cartier-Bresson of someone being turned in to the Gestapo in World War II Germany, and the painting “Landscape of the Fall of Icarus” by artist Pieter Bruegel.

The professor emphasized to the students that there was no right or wrong way to create a story from the photos.

Students Teaching Students

Elizabeth Velez, an adjunct English professor and director of Georgetown’s Community Scholars Program, and Margaret Debelius, lecturer in the English department and associate director of the university’s Writing Program, brought a few Georgetown students to the White House.

“We’re hoping, more than anything, [that] the students at the workshop will benefit from the time they spend with other students,” says Velez, who brought Darryl Robinson (C’15), Robert Jackson (SFS’14) and Yasmin Serrato (SFS’13) to help teach college essay writing.

“Each of the students reminded me of someone I knew back in high school, unsure about the process of getting into school but still very determined and teachable,” Jackson says. “In the end it’s about them conveying their emotions through their words ...”

Debelius also brought Georgetown Writing Center tutors LaToya Tufts (C’12), Maredith Hannon (C’12), Hope Ellis (C’12) and Conor Finnegan (C’12), to help teach digital communication.

Continuing Connections

Prior to Michelle Obama’s appearance on campus, some of the same high school students were paired with Georgetown undergraduate mentors, sat in on classes and took campus tours.

The Sunday mentoring sessions are an extension of that connection.

“For the students in this program to be able to meet with some college professors and to meet with some current college students, I think it sends a very important message,” Debelius says.

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