Writing Center provides students with opportunities to actively help others


Based on 347 surveys completed by students who visited the center, over 68% found services in the center to be ‘excellent’ and less than 1% gave them a ‘poor’ rating. Source: Kelly Johnson, LT Writing Center Tutor

By Maggie Patterson

The best part of Julian Zea’s day is having a returning writer come to the writing center with an essay that has significantly improved. For him, having a student walk out of Room 252 with “the brightest smile and eyes shining” is what being a tutor is all about.

Like Zea, Div. 052, many students are writing center tutors because they are motivated by the idea of helping their peers. They take time out of their personal schedules to volunteer their English knowledge and talk with fellow students to workshop anything from school essays to personal statements for college applications.

Zea spends upwards of two hours outside of class time at the center despite juggling homework, Environmental Club, Film Club, Science Olympiad and a youth group at his church. Regardless, he volunteers most of his lunch periods and you can find him in the center most mornings and afternoons after school.

“The writing center makes me feel really good,” Zea said. “I don’t see that as ‘work,’ necessarily. I see it as helping other people. They came here to get assistance and I intend to complete that task if you will.”

The class, Writing Center Instructors, taught by Ms. Cramarosso, was an idea that stemmed from her experience as a writing center tutor during her undergrad years. 

“I thought it was just the most joyful way to spend your time and I remember thinking at the time, ‘Oh, if I could do this for the rest of my life, that would be a great career,’” Cramarosso said.

Chiara Corbo Galli, Div. 151, is a Writing Center Instructors II student who has been with the program since its launch in 2017.

“The first year, it was a lot of trying to kind of figure out what we were doing,” Corbo Galli said. “Now it’s a bit smoother we know what we’re going to be talking about, what we’re going to be reading during the year, we have better strategies and we have a bigger name for ourselves at Lane Tech.”

However, the center doesn’t teach as Lane English teachers do. According to its website, the center is “committed to promoting collaborative conversation and constructive learning environments in which writers can thrive. We aim to validate individual voices and, as a result, we are open to students of all different skill levels, backgrounds, and interests. We believe in making a better writer, not better writing – creating a better process, not a better product.”

Amira Imperial, Div. 050 and a first-year tutor commented on the approach the center takes with its visitors. 

“Part of making people better writers is not to make people more perfect writers or like, American Standard English grammar writers, but to make people more comfortable and proud of their writing and to make people’s inner voice comes through in the pieces of paper and the pieces of text that they show us,” Imperial said. 

For Imperial, the center has become a place where she feels safe. 

“It’s one of the only places where I am constantly met with positivity,” Imperial said. “It’s given me this safe space to be there for everyone at all times and no one will judge me for it.”

As a part of the Writing Center Instructors curriculum, tutors are required to complete a research project based on the impact of writing centers. Some tutors take this assignment above and beyond by submitting their research to the International Writing Centers Conference.  

Finley Williams, Div. 151, had just completed her first year as a tutor at the time she was awarded the “Future Leaders” Award back in October 2019 at the conference in Columbus, Ohio.

“She actually got money to travel there and she got a certificate, she got to have lunch with the President of the International Writing Centers Association,” Cramarosso said. 

This conference is like “academic Lollapalooza,” according to Cramarosso. There are different stages, each with their own schedule for “talks” from selected presenters. Out of the 447 presentations at the conference, six were from high school tutors and four of those six were from Lane, according to Cramarosso. 

“We have a lot of kids who also want to present there that will submit their research,” Cramarosso said. “So we’re also more engaged with the writing center community at large, not just here at Lane.”

As of this year, the center employs 42 tutors; 15 are volunteer tutors who are not enrolled in the Writing Center Instructors class but still take appointments and offer to tutor their peers, and 27 tutors are full-time tutors, meaning they are enrolled in Writing Center Instructors. 

While the number of tutors has grown significantly from the first year, an issue Cramarosso battles with is getting all of the tutors to know each other. 

Every Friday, Cramarosso hosts a “Forced Fun Friday” where tutors take the day to play games such as charades with each other in an attempt to build the staff community.

“I think it has these incalculable effects where people have each other’s backs more, they’re able to work together more,” Cramarosso said. “Because, of course, there’s this big component of the class that’s outside of the classroom and so the better they know each other and are able to work together, the better it runs.” 

Over the past few years, the writing center has become a very communal place for all students, writers and tutors alike.

“We’re all here because we want to help people and I think that really helps us connect. If somebody’s having a bit of trouble in their session we’ll all step in and help them out a little bit,” Zea said.