Board Chair Walks the Walk – 5 years as a tutor in the adult ed classroom
“We make time for the things we care about.”
New Chairman Jonathan Khouri has seen first-hand how critical volunteers are to the success of the Seeds program because he’s been a tutor for five years. That unique insight is what made him want to be even more involved. Even now, while juggling a demanding legal career, a new baby, and leading the Board of Directors, Jonathan still makes time to tutor. And he wants others to join him in the classroom.
Prioritizing What Matters
He admits his plate is much fuller than it was when he started volunteering at Seeds in 2016.
After four years at the Office of the Ohio Attorney General, Jonathan is now General Counsel at Westlake-based Carnegie Management and Development Corporation, managing legal work through every step of the real estate development and management process.
In addition to tutoring, Johnathan served on the Brunch fundraising committee and then led the Program Committee. In July 2021, he was appointed Chairman of the Board at Seeds, replacing outgoing Chair George Miller, also a long-time tutor.
One month later, Jonathan and his wife welcomed their first child, Leon Samuel.
But still, Jonathan makes tutoring in the classroom a priority.
“We make time for the things we care about – and at only 2 hours a week, tutoring is a very easy commitment,” he explained. “On days when I feel like I just can’t make it to tutoring, but find a way to go anyways, I ALWAYS feel so good that I did.”
Tutoring Adult Learners
Jonathan was a young man when he started tutoring at Seeds. Even now, at 33, many of the adults he tutors are older than him. He was initially worried about appearing condescending, or not being taken seriously. He quickly realized his fears were unfounded and that students were grateful for the support, no matter the age of the tutor.
Working one-to-one with students, he learns about the daily challenges each student faces and is impressed by how they continue to persevere. “So many of our students have already figured out how to make a living and support their families, but they want more for themselves – and in many cases, they overcome a lot to prioritize their education and realize a goal they’ve pushed aside (in some cases, for decades).”
“They deserve a lot of respect for not giving up on their pursuit of foundational education. Our adult learners are an inspiring group.”
You Know More Than You Realize
Growing up, history was a favorite subject of his, and so social studies is naturally one of Jonathan’s favorites to tutor. But as a lawyer, reading and writing is a huge part of his day-to-day life and he’s learned that he has a lot to offer students in that area, beyond developing the skills to pass the tests.
“The impact of increased literacy is far-reaching and rewarding in a variety of ways,” he said. “Students can come away from tutoring with the reading comprehension necessary to make more informed medical decisions, write a solid email to a prospective employer, and be better at helping their kids with homework.”
Many of the tutors at Seeds are like Jonathan – not an educator by trade, but willing to apply what they know to help the students. Seeds provides initial training, too, so volunteers have the support and professional development that they need to confidently tutor.
And when it comes to tutoring math, Jonathan’s found honesty and humor help. “I am very up front with the student that we might be learning this together,” he chuckled. “Our students are very understanding.”
“Seeds is such an excellent volunteer opportunity because we meet students where they are,” he continued. “Providing the flexibility they need to actually reach their goals at their own speed, on their own schedules.”
The Fuel that Powers Us All
Seeds holds an annual graduation ceremony for all of the students who have completed their high school equivalency that year. For grads who never had the traditional commencement experience, it’s a chance to celebrate their accomplishment with their family, friends, and tutors.
“It’s a beautiful event – emotional, inspiring, and uplifting,” Jonathan said. “It is the fuel that powers all of us to continue this work – and to continue to innovate and find ways to reach more adults.” The graduation celebration was held virtually due to the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, but the size of the graduating class remained large. Seeds hopes to return to an in-person dinner and ceremony for 2022.
Jonathan uses his experience as a tutor as his guiding principle for leading the Board.
Vice President of Programming Carmine Stewart shared, “His experience as a tutor is invaluable in his role on the Board. He understands the students’ needs, and he is able to represent that to the board members who may not work directly with this population in their daily lives. He is able to fully represent the tutor perspective and experience, which helps provide more of an inside perspective.
“He understands firsthand that although we are known for preparing students for passing their high school equivalency tests, most of the work that we do is building students’ foundational knowledge so they can begin preparing for the test,” she continued. “That’s definitely an important perspective to have when we are evaluating our program’s effectiveness, and undertaking new initiatives.”
Jonathan’s goals for the organization include expanding to serve the needs of more adult learners in Northeast Ohio, and throughout the U.S. Students in 26 states and 3 countries have registered for tutoring at Seeds, thanks to the Virtual Classroom.
“We are only scratching the surface of the needs of adult learners,” he said. “Our one-to-one, flexible model is truly unique and to be able to scale this model in a way that still retains our personalized approach would be truly wonderful.”
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