OBERLIN — In an effort to strengthen relations between the city and Oberlin College, an Oberlin College alumna has created the Oberlin Writing Partnership, which places college students in Oberlin Schools to act as writing tutors.
The Oberlin Writing Partnership was founded by Liam McMillin, who attended Oberlin High School and graduated from Oberlin College in 2017. After graduation, McMillin became determined to bridge the gap between the institution and his hometown. He identified a gap in Oberlin High’s writing curriculum and decided to look into ways to improve the high school writing outcomes.
“The idea was to bring Oberlin College students into the high school to work specifically on writing,” McMillin said. “I went to Oberlin High School and to Oberlin College and sort of noticed that a lot of students leaving the high school didn’t have the basic writing structure they should have. Oberlin High School is generally small — I think it has less than 300 students total. But there are only three English teachers, which means they have about a hundred students each. And that doesn’t really facilitate a lot of writing. It’s just difficult for teachers to spend that much time reading, and grading, and giving feedback.”
The group was founded in the fall with three writing tutors. The program has since expanded to seven tutors who each spend about six hours in the school each week.
The college students spend their time either working in large classrooms, tutoring one-on-one during study halls, leading workshops and more.
“We get a lot of really good feedback from high school students, especially ones who have tutors in the classroom,” McMillin said. “When I’m hiring tutors, I’m looking for people who are really personable and care about other people. They are in the in the classroom only there to help these high school students — and they’ve responded really well to that.”
Some college students even chose to help out during the college’s winter term period, a month-long period where Oberlin College students have off to pursue academic and co-curricular interests, projects and internships. Four students spent their winter term getting trained and workshopping future ideas for an official high school writing center.
“Over winter term, I tutored with Mr. Jarven, an English teacher at the school,” Oberlin College sophomore Lee Khoury said. “When his students had essays, I walked around the room conducting brief ‘writing center’-type sessions. When they had regular busy-work assignments, I offered more general advice on reading and writing or examined their previous work in anticipation of future one-on one tutoring sessions. These days, I’m in study halls, working with whoever has writing due soon.”
For those college students who have chosen to participate, program offers a rewarding opportunity to get involved in the community.
“I don’t know if it’s been like anything I’ve done before,” Khoury said. “I like it a lot — the students that I work with are fantastic. Their writing has improved so fast.”
The Oberlin Writing Partnership is funded through a work-study grant from the Oberlin College Bonner Center for Service and Learning. The grants allow students who qualify for federal work study grants to work with local partner organizations and fulfill the qualifications for the grant through their work at the community partner.