Vashia Gordon was hesitant. The Lakeland College freshman knew she should seek help from the tutors at Lakeland's Hayssen Academic Resource Center, but her pride gnawed at her.
"I kept wondering, 'What if they think I'm dumb?'" recalls Vashia, now 22. "I didn't want anyone to look down on me, especially because I was an athlete. I didn't want to reinforce that stereotype."
Vashia had been, in her words, "not that good academically" at Green Bay East High School, where most of her focus was on basketball and track and field as she coasted to a "C" average. When she arrived at Lakeland, she knew it was time to buckle down.
Buckle down she did, and now Vashia, a confident, accomplished senior, is carrying a 3.3 grade point average while honing in on a career as a middle school math teacher.
"The tutoring is so beneficial, especially for a student like me who initially struggled," says Vashia. "The best tutors for me were the math tutors because that was my worst subject. I knew it would be a challenge for me, but I met it. Working with the tutors was probably the best thing I ever did because it gave me a lot of confidence. Once I got over that fear, so many doors opened for me."
Now Vashia is opening doors for others. The same young woman who was once reticent to visit tutors is one herself. And the subject that once intimidated her most – math – is what she tutors. Yes, after she took off academically, Vashia was asked to come full circle and work at the ARC.
"It was scary when I was asked to tutor," she says. "I was really happy to do it, but I was afraid I wouldn't be able to help students the way I was helped. What if I failed?"
Again, Vashia overcame her initial hesitance, and while tutoring, she was hit hard by the realization that teaching is her calling in life. So she switched from "undecided" and now majors in education.
"I love it," she says of tutoring. "It's amazing to me when I'm able to just give students that little spark they need to be successful."
Vashia is a shining example of the American college success story. Her love of sports hasn't waned, as evidenced by her three conference championships in track and field and her decision to play basketball again this winter (after not playing the past two seasons so she could focus on academics).
"I had help from so many people," she says. "People who supported me academically rather than just athletically."
Vashia thinks there's tremendous value in having students tutor other students.
"It's not just the age similarity," she says. "We remember our struggles, and we can suggest different ways of learning. Sometimes they'll say, 'Oh, I never thought it about it like that.' The one-on-one aspect is so valuable."
Though she loved tutoring from the start, one thing bothered Vashia. Sometimes, after a positive tutoring experience with a student, the student wouldn't return.
"At first I was upset," she recalled. "I finally got the guts and asked a student, 'Did I do something wrong?' They said, 'No, no! You helped me. I got it! That's why I didn't have to come back.'"