HARRIS' HEROES

Tutors with Latino Student Fund help kids with much more than just homework

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(WJLA) - Every Saturday morning, National Cathedral School fills to the brim with students from all over the region.

It's a free tutoring session for Hispanic students, through the Latino Student Fund.

What makes this one so different?

The tutoring is one-on-one, and students have the chance to stay with the same tutor for years, said Executive Director Maria Fernanda Borja.

"I think you build a trust, and trust is the most important thing for the Hispanic/Latino community," Borja described.

Students have responded remarkably to the concept.

"Just to have a program that really reaches out to Latino students and understands the struggles.... I thought it was amazing," said 17-year-old participant Eva Salmeron.

The volunteer tutors say the experience is a special one for them, as well. Mark and Michele Lerner have tutored the same kids for five years straight.

One of the Lerners' students, Tatiana Osorio, comes all the way from southern Maryland for her sessions.

"I became very close to them now...[they] became family to me now," Tatiana said.

Seventeen-year-old Alex La Noire has grown up in the program.

"LSF helped me keep up my grades, have more discipline, grow more character, become a better person in life," he said.

Now, Alex is a tutor himself.

"They look up to me, as I looked up to others," he said.

For many of the kids, homework presents one of the biggest challenges at home, particularly for those still learning English, or whose parents do not speak English well.

"I think this tutoring program, especially for Hispanics, is really important. It can give opportunities to students who can't get help from their parents," said 18-year-old Leonardo Bonilla.

Through the tutoring program, the students get help staying on track in school, as well as the added benefit of building a lasting relationship with a mentor who genuinely cares.

As for what she gets out of it, 22-year-old volunteer tutor Maritza Sanabria said it's "just making a difference in their lives, so they can come back and do the same for others."

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