Ammar, age 20, spoke no English when he arrived in New York from Yemen 4 years ago. “It was very tough at the beginning when I first got to Manhattan Comprehensive Night & Day High School,” he said. He studied and worked hard, and had the support of his teachers and from volunteer English, math, and science tutors at Comprehensive Youth Development. “The tutoring helped me. Definitely, yes. 100 percent,” he added.
Ammar shares computer science homework with Adam
Even amid the school’s closure, tutoring is active for Manhattan Comprehensive students via videoconference. Ammar has continued to work on math and computer science with his tutor, Adam Aleksa, 30, a software developer with whom he’s been paired since October 2019. They have worked out an ingenious, collaborative method where Ammar shares his homework on screen and Aleksa captures it in a screenshot, then marks it up in real time as if he was marking up a paper.
“What most students find challenging about math is it requires a conceptual understanding as well as a command of English,” Aleksa said. “Math word problems are often difficult for students who are non-native speakers. I give lots of practice and I try to use real-life examples. Ammar is great to work with – he’s very committed and that makes it enjoyable.”
Robi Jaffrey runs Comprehensive Youth Development’s tutoring program at Manhattan Comprehensive, which has been a mainstay of the organization’s work with young people since 1995. Today CYD offers one of the largest free tutoring programs in NYC, 150 volunteer tutors working one on one with an average of 200 students annually. “Our tutors are a diverse group – professionals, retirees, and graduate students,” said Jaffrey. “What they have in common is they all want to give back to their community.”
Tutors meet regularly with students and provide homework help, NYS and Regents exam preparation, and support for English language learning. “When school closed, I reached out to our volunteer/student pairs to see if they had remote connectivity, knew how to use videoconferencing programs, and remained available to conduct tutoring online. Many were available and delighted that their work could continue,” said Jaffrey.
“I am very lucky to be working with Mr. Adam, who’s a professional in computer science, the field I want to pursue,” said Ammar. “He has really helped me. I am planning to graduate in June! I applied to many colleges, including CUNY, SUNY and a few private institutions. I’ve received 15 acceptances for programs in computer science and now I’m working with CYD on figuring out my best options.”
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