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University Professor Geoffrey Hill, at the Marsh Chapel Poetry Reading, Friday, April 18, 5:30 p.m.

Week of 11 April 2003· Vol. VI, No. 28

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Student Employee of the Year
Roxbury youths read and write with BUILD tutor

By David J. Craig

Richard Lee helps fourth-grader Waleska Brown, 9, with homework after school at Roxbury's Mason Elementary School. Lee spends about six hours a week tutoring students as part of his BU work-study job. Photo by Vernon Doucette


Richard Lee helps fourth-grader Waleska Brown, 9, with homework after school at Roxbury’s Mason Elementary School. Lee spends about six hours a week tutoring students as part of his BU work-study job. Photo by Vernon Doucette


As a BU sophomore, Richard Lee wanted a work-study job where he “could get off of campus and do something to really help people.”

So for the past three years, through the Boston University Initiative for Literacy Development (BUILD), Lee (CAS’03) has traveled 45 minutes by bus to Roxbury’s Mason Elementary School twice a week to help fourth- and fifth-graders get up to speed on their language skills. In a classroom alongside a full-time teacher, for a total of six hours a week, he works one-on-one with students needing extra help with reading and writing assignments. And the international relations and political science major brings more to the tutoring job than a knowledge of verb conjugation.

“ The kids see me as someone they can ask all sorts of questions about life,” says Lee. “The school is in a low-income area, but they all want to go to college, so they ask me about what college is like, if there’s a lot of homework, how tough it is, things like that. When they hear that I’m in sixteenth grade, they’re very impressed.”

For his dedication to the youngsters he tutors and mentors, as well as for the leadership skills he exhibited this academic year supervising eight other BU students who tutor at Mason Elementary through BUILD, Lee has received this year’s Student Employee of the Year award. He was recognized at an April 10 awards luncheon in the GSU Faculty Dining Room, where he received a $500 savings bond and a plaque. In addition, Lee’s nomination has been forwarded to a statewide competition sponsored by the Northeast Association of Student Employment Administrators.

In their letter nominating Lee, BUILD program coordinators Kate Kennedy (SED’03), Rochelle Reodica (SED’03), and Michelle Smith (CAS’99, SED’03) praised him for going “above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that the program runs smoothly. Richard developed good rapport with the students at Mason Elementary School and formed strong working relationships with the teachers and staff, which has allowed for the continued success of our program at the site. . . . He is kind, humble, assertive, and hard-working. He is the type of person who does a great job without ever calling attention to himself.”

BUILD, which is overseen by BU’s Collaborative Office and works closely with several University offices and departments, places about 150 work-study students as literacy tutors at 14 Boston-area schools and community centers every year, after providing the undergraduates with basic education training. It has been administered by SED graduate students since its 1997 launch.

As a lead tutor at Mason Elementary this year, Lee, who plans to attend the U.S. Marine Corps Officer Candidate School after graduation, is responsible for coordinating the schedules of his fellow tutors at the school, completing paperwork pertaining to their performance, verifying their time sheets, and serving as a liaison between BUILD and the school. He says that the real payoff comes in the classroom, however, when he is able to sit down with a struggling student and help him or her complete a confusing assignment.

“ Last week I was working with a girl who generally doesn’t have very good self-esteem, and when I’d helped her finish her work, I gave her a big thumbs up sign, and she looked up at me and smiled and gave me a big thumbs up back,” says Lee, who plans to become a lawyer after serving in the Marines. “That’s what it’s all about.”

Runners-up display dedication, dependability

Also honored this year for dedication to their student jobs were Jennifer Meister and Ella Tabasky. As Student Employee of the Year runners-up, they received at the awards presentation the University’s Outstanding Achievement Award, which includes a framed certificate and a $100 U.S. savings bond.

Meister (ENG’03), a biomedical engineering major with a knack for computer programming, has worked for the past 15 months as a research assistant at the Trauma Center, a mental health facility in Allston, Mass., that is affiliated with the BU School of Medicine. In that short time, she has awed staff members by almost single-handedly designing the center’s research database, which she now manages.

“ As she created this new database system, she simultaneously created an accompanying manual that details the use of the system in a clear, concise, and well-thought-out manner,” wrote Cassandra Kisiel, the center’s associate director of child research, and Joseph Spinazzola, its associate director of research, in a nomination letter. “She is also able to communicate effectively with our colleagues at other agencies, as we have entrusted her to be the main contact between our site and fellow researchers for questions regarding the database.”

In addition, Meister often puts in extra hours, Kisiel and Spinazzola wrote, such as when she prepared PowerPoint presentations for a recent conference. And when she graduates this May, the center loses not just a dream of a student employee, but the cocaptain of its company softball team, a role in which she “greatly contributed to the morale and climate of our office” last summer, wrote her supervisors.

Tabasky (CAS’03), meanwhile, has worked at the ENG department of manufacturing engineering for four years, progressively assuming greater administrative responsibilities, culminating this year in being named the department’s payroll coordinator. Tabasky has “quietly assumed heavier workloads with no complaints, new responsibilities with no difficulty, and has continually improved on her innate ability to recognize and complete what needs to be done with little or no supervision,” wrote department director Ruth Mason in a letter nominating her for the Student Employee of the Year award.

Tabasky, who studies economics and environmental analysis and policy, has so thoroughly earned the faith of department administrators that she recently covered the responsibilities of a staff member who was on a three-week vacation. “Ella single-handedly managed the departmental finance actions,” Mason wrote. “She is clearly dedicated to this department. She never misses a deadline. She tries to find ways to cut spending when ordering supplies. Ella comes to work with a mission in mind -- she puts all her other commitments on hold and is entirely focused on her job and finding ways to help us.”

The Student Employee of the Year Award is administered by the Student Employment Office, whose staff narrows the nominated candidates to 12, then circulates the nominations to 5 final judges, all of whom are full-time University employees. The award is presented in conjunction with National Student Employee Week, April 7 to 13, during which supervisors are encouraged to recognize their work-studies with a token of appreciation.


11 April 2003
Boston University
Office of University Relations