The Peer Tutoring Program and Writing Center earn certification for student academic assistants

One writing coach sits and works in the Writing Center, located in the library. PHOTO BY CASEY ARSENAULT

Terence Moynihan | Staff Writer |

This past week, the Peer Tutoring Program and the Writing Center were awarded certification status through the International College Reading and Learning Association. Both the Peer Tutoring Program and the Writing Center at St. Michael’s College provide free academic assistance to students by trained and qualified students. With the certification of the programs, Dina Alsaffar, coordinator of the Peer Tutoring Program, and Allison Cleary, director of the Writing Center, are excited about how their programs are being nationally recognized. 

“With the certification of the internationally regarded organization it shows that our program and the students have met rigorous standards of selection training, direct service and evaluation,” Cleary said.

According to its website,the College Reading and Learning Association (CRLA) is “an international program dedicated to enhancing student academic success.” The CRLA is committed to serve all of higher education and certifying colleges. The certification status that was given to the two programs at St. Michael’s offers new opportunities to the coaches.Cleary added that the certification will add higher credibility on a resume, give coaches a lead for jobs and show the skills, time and effort the students put into the work.

The Peer Tutoring Program at St. Michael’s College is devoted to helping students succeed, said Alsaffar. Coaches look to create a relationship with other students so learning can be comfortable and effective. Alsaffar took over the program after Heidi St. Peter had taken on a new role at St. Michael’s. The program had been certified in the past, but because of position changes and the renewal cycle ending every three years, it has not been certified through CRLA since 2018. 

“This is something that is more beneficial for our coaches in the writing center and peer tutors to have rather than just a line on their resume that just says tutor,” Alsaffar said. “Now these students are being recognized for all their work by receiving an official certification.” 

Alsaffar hopes that this certification will encourage other students interested in pursuing professional development within themselves to consider peer tutoring. Peer tutors work with students one-on-one and in groups to help with specific courses at the college. Alsaffar added, “With some recognition for the students in the programs, we hope to diminish the shame factor in students seeking help and to come in, as everyone is always welcome.” 

“Everyone is always welcome”

Dina Alsaffar

The Writing Center is another academic resource on campus that works to guide students through their challenges in writing. The Writing Center is staffed by student writing coaches that help other students with any writing needs they may have. At its essence, it is a collaboration between students and is meant to teach students tools to make their writing better. 

“They have proven themselves as coaches and have done all the work so it is really terrific for these coaches to get certified,” Cleary said. “Our student coaches are excellent and terrific people, and they would be doing this work whether they got this certification or not. The certification is just an added bonus for them and its recognition of their hard work and professional approach to coaching.” 

Chicha Romain ’25, is a coach at the writing center. He explained what it meant for him to receive the certification from the CRLA and what it is like being a writing coach. “This certification is something special for us as coaches and I try to see where I can incorporate this credibility into my positions or even boosting a resume,” Romain said. Romain also works at an after school program back home, and with the training and certification, he is able to further help many of the children he interacts with.  “As a coach I like to work off what students have worked on so far and look for positives,” Romain said. “Gaining confidence is the first thing I look to do and I go from there. Making relationships in the Writing Center is special and I am proud to be a part of it.”

The coaches in the Writing Center work from 2-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and encourage students to come in for any of their writing needs. The new location in Durick Library #222 offers a peaceful environment for all writers to come in, write or work with a coach.