The SHAC provides help for all students


In the midst of the ongoing pandemic, it’s easy to get distracted and fall behind in school. This year, however, Graham has students covered! In mid-February, Shivam Patel (Class of 2019) started a tutoring service under the name of “The SHAC” (Student Help Academic Center). The SHAC is entirely online-based, in true COVID-19 style, and includes younger tutors. In this difficult year and in ones to come, this site is bound to have a big impact on students and staff alike!

Patel, the founder and head tutor of the SHAC, got the idea of the SHAC’s uncommon approach to tutoring from his college classes, specifically math and science ones, that do the same type of thing. “[In college,] we have review sessions with other undergraduate students who have already done these classes,” Patel said. “To help us answer questions, they’ll do little reviews for topics we covered that week. The idea was to have the same thing started up for high school students as well.” Since the tutors are college-aged, the review topics are fresher on their minds. Another advantage of the SHAC is that students feel more comfortable turning toward someone who knows and understands what they’re going through. If students feel more comfortable taking this opportunity over other ones, more students will sign up, improving the grades of many and making teachers’ jobs a little easier.

Even though all of the SHAC’s tutors are extremely busy, each one of them are eager to aid Graham and its students because of all they took away from here. “I feel like all of us would want to give back [to Graham],” Patel said. Not only will the SHAC help students, but it will also ensure that each of the tutors will be able to graduate. Starting an online tutoring program for students would also count as community service, so they could still do what they needed to do for college even though very few community service opportunities are back open to the public. 

Although everyone on the SHAC has previous tutoring experience, the unique online aspect of the new tutoring website has thrown them a little curve. “One of the hardest things is that you’re not allowed to have that physical one-on-one contact,” Layton Romano (Class of 2015)  said. “That can be the hardest thing because the connections that are made through that one-on-one in-person time can be crucial to the brain, but this is the next best thing, so I think it’s going to be more beneficial than detrimental in the end.” Others agree with her, like Samuel Shoemaker (Class of 2018) who said, “There are some drawbacks to being online, like not being able to see stuff physically, but I think [being online] makes it super easy to just hop on wherever you are.” Not all of the tutors attend college near Graham, but tutoring through Zoom meetings makes it easy for everybody to attend nonetheless.

Since the SHAC is so new, it hasn’t received much publicity yet, which is currently the main goal for all people involved. “The challenge right now is getting this out into the mainstream public of the school, and getting [students] to figure out what times we’re available and that we’re actually here to help.” Romano said. Because most students are continuing school virtually, it’s harder for them to get the word out to all students; however, this could be a blessing in disguise. With everybody using Gmail this year, teachers can reach out to students virtually to publicize the new website. “The better it kicks off, the better we can get ourselves out there,” Shoemaker said. If the website gets a large following, that ensures its future growth, consisting of things like adding more classes and gaining more tutors. 

Once the SHAC gets a larger following, that poses one more question: how long will it be available for students? Thankfully, each tutor plans on providing support through the SHAC as long as they can. “We plan on continuing [the SHAC] as long as they’ll let us,” Patel said. “Hopefully we’ll get more people involved so [the students] know we’re out there and they know that they have a support network outside of their teachers.” Even with busy college schedules, all tutors involved in the SHAC share the common interest of trying to aid students as much as possible. Once some of the current students’ schedules become too busy, the plan is to have future generations of alumni carry the torch. 

Although the SHAC’s primary goal is to provide academic help to high school students, the tutors are also interested in giving help outside of classes. Every tutor is happy to provide advice for future jobs, college scholarships, and class schedules as well. “Even outside of tutoring, I think it’s great for high school students to have mentors as they’re going through the progression from high school into college or from high school into the workforce,” Shoemaker said. Whatever a student’s idea of help may look like, one thing is for certain: alumni with the same past experiences are available at the SHAC and ready to help.