Beyond the Bell: Peer to Peer Tutoring Program Fosters Writing Success

Beyond the Bell Graphic
Beyond the Bell: Peer to Peer Tutoring Program Fosters Writing Success
Posted on 04/30/2019

Authored by Mary Berquist

It’s been a short six years since the Stephen Decatur High School Seahawk Writing Center (SWC) celebrated its grand opening and, since that time, it has evolved into an integral component of student writing success.

A vision of English teacher Kia Terlizzi, the SWC began with just a handful of tutors and no particular dedicated space. While the SWC is still located in Terlizzi’s English classroom, it has added dozens of trained tutors who make frequent appearances in many classrooms throughout the building including English, history, and even science classes. It has also expanded by collaborating with the school’s tutorial internship program.

Though tutors spend significant time assisting students in the writing process during the school day, the SWC has its most success beyond the bell with the After School Academy. Throughout the year, members of the Seahawk Writing Center spend numerous after school hours tutoring struggling writers, studying effective ways to help in the writing process, monitoring the SWC website and sign-up calendar, and generating advertisement campaigns in the building. Students seeking help from SWC tutors also have the opportunity to choose particular tutors based upon their writing resumes/profiles on the SWC website. Since its inception, the SWC has assisted hundreds of students and, by the end of the 2018 – 2019 school year, tutors will have worked with well over 200 students.

Each year, the list of successful tutoring experiences grows. After every tutoring session, tutees complete a detailed feedback form and they are also offered the opportunity to participate in videotaped testimonials. These processes insure that the SWC continues to progress. In 2017, the SWC launched an internal study on writing achievement and found that SWC participants experience as much as a 13% grade increase on major writing assignments.

The Seahawk Writing Center tutors have conducted several formal presentations including one for the Worcester County Public Schools Administrators and Supervisors. Members have also attended writing conferences at George Mason University and the group is affiliated with the Secondary School Writing Center Association (SSWCA).

Stephen Decatur High School afterschool programs are funded from local operating funds. You can support local afterschool programs like this through volunteerism, advocacy and in-kind donations. For more information about or to offer support for WCPS afterschool programs, contact Tamara Mills at

Beyond the Bell: Afterschool Success Stories
 is a weekly web featurette showcasing the opportunities offered to students through afterschool programs across the county. Beyond the Bell is published every Tuesday.