Volunteering for a Better Seattle

Seattle Central tutoring volunteers work with dedicated ABE and ESL students.

For the last 40 years, dedicated volunteers have been gathering at the Broadway Campus of Seattle Central College to help tutor people who are learning english or trying to strengthen their academic skills before applying for college level courses. By design, the tutoring program specifically serves those enrolled in ABE (Adult Basic Education) classes, including the ESL (English as a Second Language) division.
For the students, especially those learning english as their second language, the tutoring program often makes the difference when it comes to passing their courses. Being able to speak with someone who is familiar with the language is impactful, because it helps them practice daily conversation without the pressure or stigma that is often felt in other situations.
“Other subjects, you can maybe go get a book or sort of figure it out on your own,” said Marjorie Richards, a tenured faculty member and ESL teacher at Seattle Central. But learning a language takes a completely different approach. For ESL students, this is mainly where the tutoring program comes in.
“It really helps because talking to someone is part of what they’re learning,” Richards stated. Beyond conversational skills, the volunteers and the students they work with form valuable connections that strengthen a sense of community within the school. For students who may not have an area in the school where they can even speak their own language, this is a welcome source of comfort and support.
“People feel just a little more connected to the community and to the world,” said Megan Court, the tutoring program coordinator for the basic and transitional studies division at Seattle Central. The tutoring area is set up in one large room on campus, in which people from all over the planet converge to meet a common goal of bettering their education.
“You never know who you might work with,” Court said. “It could be an 80 year old grandma from Somalia who’s trying to learn English because her grandkids speak English, a lawyer from Russia who’s learning English because he now lives in the U.S., or a 50 year old who’s back in school trying to beef up their academic skills so they can qualify for college courses.” All together, it makes this program one of the more interesting and culturally vibrant places to volunteer, and there’s always something new and different going on. In such a diverse environment, tutors often learn just as much as the students they’re helping.
“We always have a lot more students that are asking for tutors than we have available volunteers,” Court added. “And our program is unique in that we really rely on volunteer service.” Seattle Central is also very flexible with bringing in new tutors. Anyone over the age of 18 is welcome to volunteer, and tutoring hours are 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM Monday through Thursday, and 8:00AM to 3:00 PM on Fridays.
Volunteering for this program enriches both the lives and education of the students who participate, as well as the tutors. The idea that dedicated tutors can change students’ lives, a philosophy that extends from Seattle Central to the hard working members of Garfield’s own ESL department. “It’s definitely a different role than a teacher. It’s like a friendship,” Richards said.


Contact Megan Court for more
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