Oberlin Writing Partnership Brings New Collaboration to High School

February 28, 2019
Hillary Hempstead
writing tutor assisting high school student
Twice a week, sophomore Bridget Conway serves as a tutor for writing and composition at Oberlin High School Photo credit: Michael Hartman

New program founded by Liam McMillin ’17 places Oberlin College students as tutors in Oberlin High School.

Students who go to school in the city of Oberlin have access to high-caliber resources, many of which include collaborations with the college. The Ninde Scholars Program and the Spanish in the Elementary School (SITES) program offer tutoring and language services, respectively. But until fall 2018, there was no program dedicated to offering high school students consistent in-classroom assistance with writing and composition.

A graduate of both Oberlin High School and Oberlin College, Liam McMillin ’17, who majored in religion, worked as a tutor both on his own and in several programs, including the Ninde Scholars Program and the Oberlin College Writing and Speaking Associates Program. Through this involvement, he identified a gap in the type of assistance offered to Oberlin High School students. “While there were tutors for languages, there was a lack of English writing tutors,” says McMillin.

Identifying this opportunity led to the creation of Oberlin Writing Partnership, a program that places Oberlin College students as tutors in Oberlin High School. The Oberlin Writing Partnership works in collaboration with the Oberlin College Writing Associates Program, which provides the training framework for tutors.

The new program is part of the Bonner Center’s Community Based Work-Study Program (CBWSP) that enables students with a Federal Work-Study award to earn their work-study with one of the Bonner Center's community partner organizations.

“The Community Based Work-Study Program is essentially at capacity, but through a competitive application process, we were able to take on a few new partners this fall,” says Tania Boster, associate director of the Bonner Center.

“What was so appealing about Liam’s program is that he wasn’t just presenting this idea that he had and wanted to impose upon the high school; he had existing relationships and the trust of the teachers there. He knew there was a need in the community, and he created a program that allowed him to address the need.”

When he launched Oberlin Writing Partnership, McMillin had two primary goals. First, he wanted to improve writing aptitude for students in Oberlin Public Schools. His other intention was to create an additional bridge between the college and town that would further ally the two entities.

student tutors in Oberlin High School classroom
In the classroom, Conway assists high school students with how to write presentations and essays.

During fall semester, the program operated as a pilot, with three tutors placed both in the classroom and in the library’s writing center. In the classroom, tutors operate similarly to a traditional teaching assistant and provide ongoing support to the teacher. Tutors are also stationed in the school’s library and are available for drop-in sessions where any student can seek tutors for assistance.

Sophomore comparative literature and studio art major Bridget Conway joined the program as a tutor in order to participate in the community.

“I have been working as an English tutor for the past four or five years, so coming into my second year at Oberlin, I knew I wanted to dedicate more time to the Oberlin community,” says Conway. “When I saw the job posting for this, I thought that it would be the perfect meeting of those two interests of mine. It’s been super rewarding, and I really like working in the community and in the high school.”

Conway goes to the high school twice a week and assists for two periods in an eleventh-grade classroom and for two periods in the library’s writing center.

“In the classroom, I’m helping the teacher with activities, and I’m helping the students with brainstorming and how to write presentations or essays. In the library’s writing center, I get to work with the entire school. Students there have gotten more comfortable coming up to me over the course of the semester, and I’ve built a relationship with a handful of the them. It’s really useful to be available so consistently.”

When thinking beyond the program’s inaugural year, McMillin has aspirations to grow the program beyond its current level of classroom tutors. “I would love to have three tutors in all of the departments,” he says.

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