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Basalt High’s peer tutoring program connects bilingual students, tutors

New resource rolled out after seeing students struggle in the fall

Darian Armer
Special to The Aspen Times

Basalt High School offered a new resource to help students this year with the introduction of an application-based peer tutoring program. Bilingual upperclassmen who thrive in certain academic subject areas serve as peer tutors for struggling students and English language learners.

Kelly Donnelly, BHS guidance counselor and advisor for the peer tutor program, said the school decided to offer the program after seeing how many students struggled in the fall, when most students were still online for classes.

“BHS decided to use the money to pay students to go into classes where many students were struggling and provide assistance,” Donnelly said. “We identified classes that had a high failure rate, which were usually freshman and sophomore classes, and sent peer tutors to those rooms. Upperclassmen who had an off-block filled it with peer tutoring as a class. They get graded and also receive a stipend.”



All tutors are bilingual in English and Spanish; they work individually and in small groups with students during class time to help catch them up, and the program is available to anyone who needs help.

Tutors sit in class every day to work with the same cohort of students and receive instructional support with the classroom teacher. Tutors even have the opportunity to earn scholarship money for their work.




Seniors Riley Dolan, Valeria Vidal Soto, Gracy Rivera and Gracie Reardon all signed up for the opportunity to tutor.

Rivera said she spent much of her time helping tutor and translate in an underclassman math class.

“It feels like they’re understanding it more on a personal level. They know us a little better. Teachers can’t help every student one-on-one, so we get to help them out,” Rivera said. “I have a lot of family members and friends who have struggled because of language barriers. Especially in classes like math, it is always difficult to translate because you’re dealing with numbers and letters.”

Dolan, who tutors in English, was a teacher’s assistant for physical education before the COVID-19 pandemic impacted classes.

“I wanted to do something similar, but more academic. I thought it would be fun to do math and help younger kids,” Dolan said. “It’s beneficial for us to learn how to teach kids. It’s a good skill to have.”

Vidal Soto helps out with a statistics class, where she said she mainly helps Spanish speakers.

“I enjoy helping with the language barrier,” she said.

Reardon also helps out with a statistics class. Each day before the class starts, the teacher gives her an agenda and some paperwork to go over, as well as an assignment to a specific table group to help.

“As a second-semester senior, I had all my credits and had taken most of the electives I wanted to,” Reardon said. “I wanted to be a teacher’s assistant to fill another period, but it worked out really well that this was another option. I had also been in a buddy program, which wasn’t being offered because of COVID. This gave me another opportunity to help younger students. It’s been a really cool thing to be a part of. I hope they continue it.”

Guidance counselor Donnelly said she expects the program to continue.

“We have nine peer tutors this semester. We have five seniors and four juniors,” Donnelly said. “It’s great for underclassmen to have such good role models. They always look up to the upperclassmen.”

Dolan will attend University of Wisconsin—Madison after graduation. Rivera is bound for University of Denver. Reardon heads to the University of Colorado. Vidal Soto will attend Metropolitan State University in Denver.

Darian Armer is a freelance writer based in Montana with roots in Colorado.


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