The East Harlem Tutorial Program (EHTP) gives kids the opportunities they would have if they were born 20 blocks south…and they’ve been doing it for more than 50 years. They teach reading, math and science, provide one-on-one tutoring, prepare kids for college, help them get accepted, and build the social skills the kids will need to succeed. Founded in 1958, East Harlem Tutorial Program prepares students with the academic skills, strength of character and emotional well-being to excel in high school and college, to lead in their communities, and to realize their best possible selves.
Growing up in East Harlem can be tough. Hanging out in the streets with friends during the long hot summer days and nights is just what you get used to. Every one of your friends live the same as you. You all can share three facts in common; you all live in NYC Housing, are going through tough times, and most people around you never finished high school.
I can completely admit that I did not always have my priorities in order. I honestly did not care about college in the slightest for a long time. My siblings hung out in the streets with their friends, almost failing to graduate high school, and I was on the same path. It wasn’t until a year later that I became very bored with my friends. I looked for something to occupy my afternoons. That’s when I had to choose between a job in a medical office or something called The East Harlem Tutorial Program.
This place turned out to be my Godsend. VERY patient people like Peter Barros (Deputy Director, School Choice and College Success) and Frank Perez (Instructor of Media Studies) saw a passion and gift for writing in me. They saw that I was a very smart young woman, just incredible unfocused and lazy. All it took was a couple of people to tell me they believed in me. All it took was a few people to sit down with me, look over report cards, ask me about school, help me with my term papers, and set a fire under my ass when I slacked off. Most importantly, all it took was a few people to give me the confidence to know that I am a pretty engaging writer and on-air talent.
I ended up doing a whole 360; I focused on school the way I should have from the start. I started working for them as an intern to build my resume. Most shocking to me? When the time came for it, I did something I was not planning on doing…applying to colleges. They became a home away from home. I practically lived in the building; all I needed was a sleeping bag. I am just another example of how a simple neighborhood program like EHTP, can make such a big difference. Today, along with being the lovely writer of this article you are reading, I am a college student. I work my butt off just to make those people proud. They have stayed with me for the last three years and continue to stand by my side to watch me fulfill the immense potential there is in this little 5’5 body.
Since my graduation I am no longer a student, I became alumni of the East Harlem Tutorial Program’s University Program. Let’s not forget the newest member of the College Scholars program. Wondering what the College Scholars program is? Well let’s see what their website, www.ehtp.org, says:
“College Scholars program was instituted in 2012 to ensure that our students have the support and resources they need to be successful in college and graduate with a college degree. As part of the College Scholars program, students receive a range of support from start to finish: upon enrollment, students receive a laptop computer and throughout their college careers; they receive an annual book stipend along with academic and career advising, tutoring support, and social events that help to maintain and strengthen relationships with EHTP as well as with one another. We also award several annual scholarships to help fund student’s tuitions. The College Scholars program helps students make the most of their college experience by providing assistance securing internships, managing personal finances and the financial aid process, and adjusting to college life and a new environment.”
Sounds amazing doesn’t it? I know with this organization’s help I have an awesome chance to be a prodigious human being in this world. Last year, every senior had a chance at the Susan Lurie Keynote Speaker scholarship. We had to write a speech about EHTP or our experience with the program. I was blessed enough to have won that competition last year.
It was an incredible experience to be the center of attention at an EXTREMELY fancy gala. For me, it was an unbelievable feeling to think all these extremely important people were here to support the program I loved so much and to hear my speech. Nothing ever compared to that feeling of standing on stage and seeing that standing ovation for me at the end. I vowed to myself right then and there to always find a way to come back to this gala. I also vowed to keep EHTP in my heart and do whatever I could to help.
This year they have invited me back for a Broadway comedy show. I spoke to the board of directors of the organization to show them how appreciative we are of their efforts to continue raising money for us and keeping us going. That was a site to see, imagine me on stage doing a Fran Drescher impression. The most exciting thing of all for me? I was called back to attend the 2014 Annual Spring Gala as a guest!
This was so exciting to me, to see the next class of seniors go through the same amazing experiences I did just a year before. It was marvelous to walk around and have some people remembered me as last year’s speaker. I felt like a little star! This year’s Keynote Speaker was Michael Alexander Lopez. Although he was unable to conduct an interview with us (Being keynote speaker is exhausting, I am telling you all from experience, you get pulled in so many directions for weeks you forget what sleep feels like), we completely understood why he could. He did pose for some pictures for us, which was great, thank you Michael.
I felt a sense of nostalgia as I sat in that seat and listened to Michael’s speech. I looked around and thought about walking up those steps and seeing all those people. I was in Michael’s place just 12 months prior, I knew the excitement that coursed through his veins. Personally I thought he did amazingly! Truly a kick butt representative for the organization I hold so dear to my heart. Here is a clip of his speech for this year’s gala.
Every year the gala is a big deal for all of us. We sat through etiquette classes; we sat through slide shows on appropriate attire, and we even sat through lectures on which forks to use for which course. As stressful as it all may be it is worth it. Standing there in conservative yet stunning outfits, talking with the most important and influential people to EHTP and their fields is a dream. There are even tables that showcase our hard work; there is the media studies table, the robotics table, the pre-med program table. Stay tuned to the organization’s website for all pictures from this year’s event. All I can say is that I am truly grateful to be a part of, such a loving organization. If this sounds like a place you want to be a part of check out their website for volunteer or donation opportunities. Every donation makes a success story like Michael and I.