Erin Agboola likes working with students of all ages, so it’s no surprise that she enjoys helping students do tasks they didn’t think they could do before.
In her role as program coordinator of Project Next Step, Cluster Tutoring program for high school students, she helps those students decide what steps to take after high school graduation, whether that’s applying to colleges, exploring options for trade schools, or finding a different alternative route.
“This is my first experience working with high schoolers,” said Erin, who is in her second year at Project Next Step. “I’m really enjoying it.”
During the day, Erin works at Hephzibah with kids up to 3 years old in the early Head Start program as well as connecting with their families. “I’m sort of a parent coach,” she said.
Erin started tutoring fellow students in high school and tutored both elementary and college students while at Lawrence University. She spent a few years as a Cluster tutor, tutoring two different students. But she knew she wanted to get more involved with the program, so when the job of Project Next Step coordinator opened up, she was happy to apply.
While Erin concentrates most of her time on juniors and seniors, she also spends time with freshmen and sophomores.
“I introduce myself to students in their first year of high school,” she said. “I try to get a ‘light feel’ about what they’re interested in.” She asks about extracurricular activities as well as classes and tries to connect them with summer activities.
With sophomores, she helps students prepare for standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT. “We steer them toward possible resources,” she said.
By the time students are juniors, two other tutoring volunteers join the effort. Marcia Hubbuch, who spent her career counseling high school students about colleges, works with students to explore choices, finding possible fits with their interests, grades, and test scores. Patty Jacobs works with students as they think about topics for college essays — and how to structure those essays.
When it’s time for Cluster students who are high school seniors to start applying for college, Erin, Marcia, and Patty all help with their applications. “I edit their applications,” Erin said, just to help catch errors and make sure they’re complete. She also makes sure students file FAFSA forms to maximize the chances of financial aid.
The Cluster students who are seniors in 2019-20 are pretty independent and responsible, Erin said. “They really did their college applications on their own!” But the students still ask her to read over their applications and essays.
College finances are always a stumbling block. “We want to do a better job of that this year — helping students find more scholarships,” Erin said.
Erin also has found a way to keep Cluster Tutoring all in the family. Her husband, Ekerin Agboola, became a Cluster tutor last year.