Guest Blogger Lisa Seabolt Blair, writes about student Monte Jones. Lisa is a Catapult Learning Center Director for GED Prep at the Hillendale Center in Baltimore, MD.
A Remarkable Student
To say that Monte Jones is a remarkable student would be an understatement. I first met Monte in the Fall of 2010 and he changed my life immediately. I was asked to tutor Monte after school a couple of days a week at his home in Baltimore. He was in the 7th grade at a school right down the street from his home in Brooklyn, MD. He had an IEP and was working very hard to meet his goals—especially turning in his homework and being on time for school each day. Monte’s many absences kept him from achieving his academic goals. Worst of all, Monte’s mother had suddenly passed away a couple months prior. After learning of his situation, I said yes without hesitation.
The first session I had with Monte was very frustrating, to no fault of his own. We began with some testing so that I could get a better understanding of what he did really well and what he needed to work on. During the testing, the children in the neighborhood kept knocking on the door wondering why Monte wasn’t outside playing. Over and over again, he explained that he was doing school work. They continued to distract him (and I).
Finally Monte looked up at me, with tears in his eyes, and asked if we could stop for the day because he couldn’t focus. My heart broke. He was so embarrassed because of the other children. We stopped our testing , and as I left Monte’s house that evening, I searched for a different location where we could work without distractions. Lo and behold, at the end of the street was a library! From then on, Monte and I would walk to the library and get to work. Monte, ever the gentleman, always made me give him the bag of supplies and books to carry.
Once Monte was finished with the testing, it was estimated that his reading level was roughly around 3rd grade and his math level was roughly around 4th grade. We had a lot of ground to cover, but Monte was willing to put in the hard work and never once complained. It was such a joy to see his excitement and pride in his work.
After several weeks, and a lot of homework time and tutoring in reading and math, Monte was thrown another curveball. As he was working away on some math problems one evening, his older brother and sister came in to the library and asked if Monte could be dismissed for the night—they had to pack up all of their belongings and be out by the next day. His family was being evicted from their home in the city. I can’t imagine the toll this takes on a 13-year-old. We had to cancel the next few sessions because Monte didn’t have a permanent home yet. I honestly almost asked him to come and stay at my house! I always told my husband, “If I show up at home one evening with him, don’t be mad at me.”
Persistence and Motivation
It was eventually decided that Monte would be staying with a relative on the other side of the city. Our new tutoring hot spot became the Dunkin Donuts on Washington Avenue. Again, I would meet Monte at the house and we would walk up the street to the Dunkin Donuts, where we would work through that day’s lessons while enjoying some donuts and orange juice. It was at this point in our time together that I realized that nothing would stop this kid! His persistence and motivation to get better at every little thing he approached, no matter what stood in his way, was truly inspiring. The fight in him made me smile every time I saw him and I was deeply grateful that I had been offered the chance to work with him. I had never worked with a student so determined.
Things changed once again for Monte, but this time it was for the better. Right after Christmas, those in Monte’s life decided that it would be best for him to move in with his uncle in Annapolis and finish out Middle School there. Once I met his uncle, I understood why this was the best fit for Monte. His uncle is a very no-nonsense kind of person and made sure that Monte made it to school on time every day of the rest of that school year. I continued to work with Monte until the end of the school year, commuting from Baltimore City where I taught during the day to Annapolis, and then back home to Bel Air, three (sometime 4) days a week. To say my days were long was putting it mildly, but it didn’t faze me once. Working with Monte and being part of the group of amazing people that helped to keep him on track was worth it.
Monte finished out that school year by making the honor roll for the last two quarters, and he was looking forward to his summer vacation. Not only were my days long, but so were his. He deserved the break.
I was so proud of Monte and I enjoyed working with him that it was no-brainer when I got the call during the 2011-2012 school year to start tutoring again. This time, I would work with Monte on the weekend in Pikesville where he stayed with his football coach, Donald English and his family. Monte continued to be a dream student to work with, even in the early mornings when he had football later in the afternoon.
At this point, Monte had to make some decisions about what to do for high school the following year. He wanted to go to a private school, so we started cramming for the ISEE test and other private high school admission tests. Monte’s hard work paid off, and he was accepted into St. Mary’s. He would also join their football team; another one of his goals was achieved!
We continued working on reading and math, preparing him for things he would face on his new adventure in high school. Monte had changed so much in the two years that I worked with him. He was reading fluently, writing papers without much difficulty, and tackling math problems with determination and ease.
Again, it came time for us to part ways for the summer. I knew Monte would be successful in high school; he wouldn’t allow himself to be anything else. I knew he would achieve great things on the football field as well. I haven’t seen or spoken to Monte since the last day of tutoring in June of 2012. I can’t say that I was surprised when Donald English recently forwarded me an article on Monte from Marylandvarsity.com, where Monte’s achievements on the football field are highlighted. Monte is now a sophomore linebacker at St. Mary’s, and is already getting letters from different colleges around the area; Towson, Liberty, and Shepherd to name a few. He is hoping to go to Penn State after he graduates in 2016.
Monte continues to push himself both on and off the field to be the best. He is doing great with his academics and continues to be a leader on his football team. I have no doubt that Monte will make it to a great college and be successful, both in school and on the football field. The name “Monte Jones” is definitely one to remember!
Monte’s Football Coach and Mentor…He is doing very well at St. Mary’s. He is not quite an honor roll student, but he is definitely keeping up in a school that has no IEP program or any other program for students with learning challenges. Obviously, he is doing very well on the football field by being selected to the all state and all conference team as a sophomore.
I have no doubt that the tutoring sessions are a huge reason why Monte was able to make the transition. He has to work a lot harder for the grades that he gets, but it would have been impossible without the help that Catapult Learning provided.
It will be quite a success story when he finally goes to college.
— Donny English