supporting Cambridge public school students

Sue Wellington, Financial Manager

A board of directors dressed up for a festive event

CRLS Student-Written Career Profile:

Sue Wellington, Non-Profit Financial Manager

This year, with support from the Cambridge Agassiz Harvard Fund, Cambridge School Volunteers engaged and guided a handful of Cambridge Rindge and Latin students in interviewing professionals in STEM industries. This is the third of the profiles in that series.

Cambridge School Volunteers Tutor is also a Singer
Second from left, Cambridge School Volunteers board member Sue Wellington sings with a choral group.

The connection between math and creative disciplines is front and center for Sue Wellington. “There are rhythmic patterns…in music and poetry and writing. There’s an element of hearing the flow and the cadence and the rise and fall, which all sort of come from how numbers work.”  Sue is a long-time Cambridge School Volunteers (CSV) tutor and member of the organization’s board of directors. Sue has volunteered in the Cambridge Public School District’s ELL [English Language Learner] Summer Discovery Academy, and currently tutors a student one-to-one at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School (CRLS). For many years, she worked as a bank lender working with domestic corporations and foreign government entities, and now she serves as a financial manager for nonprofits. She speaks several languages competently. In her spare time, she has been actively engaged in multiple choirs, where she has come to believe that there are common patterns that tie together seemingly distinct subjects like math and singing. While Sue has observed music’s appeal to a wide range of people, this singer feels that melody, harmony, and rhythm, in particular, hold a special draw for those who work in science or math-related fields.

Even as Sue brings her professional experience with “numbers, finance, banking, investments, and stuff like that” into her tutoring, she also endorses the value of taking a fresh approach, as though she had no prior experience with a mathematical subject. “Sometimes,” she says, describing her process with a student she is tutoring, “we’ve had to go back to square one, and we’ve taken the textbook, and we’ve read what it had to say about a puzzle or problem, and then we’ve kind of talked about it and worked on it together. And that means I’m learning, and the student is learning, and it’s a very collaborative process.”

Sue explains that at the CRLS Tutoring Center she operates differently than a teacher does. Her job is not to force information on a student, but to be flexible and collaborate so that the student can learn the material on his or her own terms. To offer such an individualized approach successfully, Sue believes it is essential for her to develop a personal relationship with the particular high school student she is tutoring. “It’s really about gathering information first,” Sue affirms.  For this reason, she tries to learn who her student is, and about their background, often finding that the student may be lacking a strong network of support. “Some of them, quite frankly, need a friend more than anything else,” she says.

Throughout her work as a CSV volunteer, Sue strives to ensure that her students are comfortable in the tutoring relationship and feel that an open dialogue can always be held. Frequently, she shares her opinions about different teaching and learning styles, which she believes should be factored into the matching of tutors and students. “Getting to know your student and having a one-on-one tutoring relationship—that’s gratifying on the tutor’s side,” according to Sue. Investing effort into the relationship means it functions as “a two-way street,” where, as the tutor, “you feel that your tutee trusts you and will share their thoughts with you.”

As a member of the CSV Board of Directors, Sue wonders about the long-term impacts of Cambridge School Volunteers’ programs—specifically, whether CRLS graduates who received tutoring and mentoring services see benefits of these services in their lives beyond high school. Sue wants to know how graduates who had regular, long-term tutoring with CSV in high school would describe their experience after participating in the program. Do these students collapse without the support that they were previously being given, or, because of that support, do they continue with more confidence and capability in both college and careers?

Contributing her financial expertise and her unique perspective, Sue believes she adds value to the CSV board. But most importantly, she believes, board work is about collaboration. She compares her input here to being a member of a choir. “You work with other people, blending your voice in to make a very delightful overall sound. Even in a board setting, I bring my own special little sound,” she adds with a smile.

—Laura GillStudent Author Laura Gill Profiles Financial Planner Susan Wellington

—Laura Gill is a senior at CRLS with an interest in English and Art. She was drawn to this project to bring more attention to the work that CSV tutors do to help students succeed.

If you’d like to join CSV to lend a hand to students in the Cambridge Public Schools through mentoring, tutoring, or becoming a classroom volunteer, come to an orientation for new volunteers.