Monday, December 7, 2009

Volunteer Spotlight: James West

First year mentor James West graduated from Northwestern University in 2008 with a degree in computer science. He chose NU because of its great engineering school and its proximity to Chicago. He thought it would be a different, interesting experience. Before moving to the area, James lived in Dothan, Alabama. Both of his parents were doctors and his older sister, who went to Auburn University, is a nurse. James says the best part about Alabama is the warmer weather. He loves the outdoors, but he'll take fishing and water sports over ice skating and skiing any day.

James works as a software engineer for Trading Technologies. He develops internal software for the company which, as a whole, develops software for trading futures (part of financial markets). He would like to go to graduate school at some point and possibly move to a smaller city in a warmer climate. He loves school because you are constantly with people. In college, as a member of the fraternity Pi Kappa Alpha, he lived with several close friends in one big house.

James also dreams of working in another country for a year. After graduating high school, he went backpacking in Europe for five weeks with a friend and absolutely loved it. He studied abroad in Rome, Italy, for a summer during college, too.

Like so many other people, James found out about Cabrini Connections through the Internet. He was looking for an opportunity to volunteer and ours looked good because he has always done well in school, thus making him a good tutor, and our location is convenient. James lives just a few blocks from our center. He is proud to be working with kids from his neighborhood.

But, though it was a good fit on paper, James knew this opportunity would be challenging. He had never worked with children before. Luckily, he was paired up with a fantastic young man, 7th grader Marquise Cook. "We've developed a pretty good relationship," says James. "We've become closer... Before, he would give me the shortest possible answer to my questions, but now he'll go into it." All relationships take time, but because James and Marquise have had almost perfect attendance, they've been able to make good progress.

Marquise usually brings homework, but even when he doesn't have any, he and James manage to make good use of their time together. James will make up math problems or ask questions about grammar. Both in this case and when they're doing regular homework, James has been able to assess what levels Marquise is at in different subjects. Therefore, when they do have extra time, he is able to focus on those areas. "We rarely play games," says James. "Just schoolwork. Start that way and it's what they expect." That's all great advice, James! You're new to tutoring, but I already think you could lead a training workshop. Keep up the good work. We appreciate it!

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