I had to find a way to do what I love—be a role model for kids," member Mikel Adame says.
Mikel is the 23-year-old founder of Eastside Tutors, a flexible tutoring organization that serves many Bellevue Club members' families.
Eastside Tutors started in May 2010, immediately after Mikel graduated from Northwest University in Kirkland. There, he studied pastoral ministry and biblical studies. He loved it, but somewhere along the way, he discovered that tutoring was truly a passion he could not ignore.
"I started volunteering when I was 16 years old; it's just been something I've always loved to do," Mikel says. "I remember helping out with lunch duty shifts [at local schools] and realizing what a difference it made to those kids. "It was fantastic to get to know every student and have interactions with them every day. They look up to you, and it was a great opportunity to be a role model—maybe one some kids really needed."
This passion for volunteerism, along with a nurturing instinct, led Mikel to take his tutoring and mentoring to a new level, one that required a massive undertaking: building a network of qualified tutors to help the families he couldn't fit into his busy schedule.
"It was almost purely out of necessity. Families I knew would refer me to their friends and, at first, I could take on a new student here and there, but there's just a point where I don't have any time left."
He was in a race to keep up with demand.
The requests for his time were so overwhelming that he had to create an organization: Eastside Tutors. Presently, there are 32 tutors in the organization who serve approximately 280 Eastside families.
Mikel is behind it all, wielding a massive spreadsheet to organize every tutor's schedule.
Eastside Tutors offers tutoring in any subject and specializes in "developing effective study habits." Many of the tutors are so empowering that they are assigned to students for years.
Mikel is continually growing his roster of talented tutors, too. All of them have their unique talents. "I am glad to be working with every one of them. They are great people."
To select tutors for his organization, he receives recommendations from college professors. All tutors commit to a family for one semester or a school year, and many continue for longer than that. The first applicant he ever interviewed is still tutoring with Eastside Tutors today.
The tutors work with the students to develop homework routines and instill a strong, healthy work ethic. The focus is on concepts and ideas, building motivation and creating a lasting influence.
At the end of the day, the true metric of success is whether the students can perform well on their own.
However, all students come with unique challenges, Mikel says. Sometimes, the parent/student relationship, and families' expectations, create an unintentional layer of challenges.
Mechanical approaches to improving academic success can often slow the process and turn organic growth into an uphill battle. So Eastside Tutors often manages the creation of goals, as well as the expectations, with the parents.
When working with students who feel grades are not important, the goal is to capture their attention and make studying fun. For students who are considered high achievers at the beginning of tutoring, the challenge is understanding the students' and parents' definition of perfection.
It's about pushing.
"Going beyond one's comfort zone is necessary for growth. The key is to create opportunities for that stretch," Mikel says. He develops lessons and tweaks his approach to provide intellectual challenges, providing harder follow-up questions or trying to get them to zoom out from a specific algebra problem and comprehend the larger mathematical concept.
Mikel spends as much as 16 to 18 hours of his time every day tutoring and monitoring Eastside Tutors. Plus, he works six to seven days per week to fit as many students into his schedule as possible.
Dedication is his most important lesson plan.
"Education impacts every aspect of our lives," Mikel says. "It is important to help kids take advantage of their opportunities and realize what an important role learning plays in everyday life."
Kaston Griffin is a Seattle writer, equally involved in professional prose and local competitive poetry.