Gaston College Students Benefit from Free On-Campus Tutoring Program
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Gaston College students benefit from free on-campus tutoring program

Gaston College Students Benefit from Free On-Campus Tutoring Program

The Gaston College Learning Center, located in the Dalpiaz Student Success Center on the College’s Dallas campus, offers a quiet place for students to study, collaborate on projects, and work with a dedicated group of tutors who are there to provide assistance in subjects across the College’s program offerings.

The tutoring program is free to students. Students may be referred to the program by their instructors, or they can visit the Learning Center to inquire about the assistance available. If they GC Tutorswant to participate in the program, an instructor referral will be required. Students can work with tutors for up to three hours a week per subject. The tutors may be fellow students, Gaston College staff members, or alumni who return to campus to be of service.

The Gaston College tutoring program began in 1998 as a resource for students in the developmental education program. At that time, the tutoring staff consisted of five “Peer Tutors” who were Gaston College students. The college recognized the need for tutoring help for students in other programs and began to grow the program at first by hiring recent Gaston College graduates as tutors. Currently 20 to 30 tutors are employed each semester to provide assistance for subjects from every Gaston College academic program. Math, chemistry, biology, accounting, and computer skills are the most in-demand subjects.” Tutors, who work an average of 12 to 15 hours a week, must have attained at least a 3.0 GPA and must undergo training before working with students.

The Gaston College Writing Center, under the umbrella of the Learning Center, provides coaches to help with all types of writing assignments. All of the Writing Center coaches have Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees.

Approximately 150 students use the tutoring program each semester. The program is based in the Learning Center on the Dallas campus, and tutoring is also available on the Lincoln campus and during certain hours, or as needed, on the Kimbrell campus in Belmont.

A recent graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, Chelsey King graduated from Gaston College in 2016. She had started her college career at the age of 30, after earning her GED. Although she initially struggled with math, King graduated with high honors and earned her Associate of Science degree from Gaston College where she excelled in math and science courses. She participated in the Gaston College SPARC initiative for outstanding students majoring in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs. While a SPARC Scholar, she was involved with several undergraduate biology research projects and worked as a tutor for science courses.

King majored in biology at UNC-Chapel Hill and earned her Bachelor of Arts degree. She plans to take a gap year before pursuing her Master’s Degree in Health Informatics. She decided to return to Gaston College to tutor students because of her positive experience as a student there. “I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Gaston College,” she said. “I love the students here. So many of them are working one or two jobs while attending school. I admire that work ethic and I am happy to help them as much as I can.”

King, who also tutored when she was a student at Chapel Hill, believes the tutoring program at Gaston College to be extremely effective. She finds that some of the students she tutors in chemistry and/or biology are underprepared for the coursework and she helps them develop a comfort level and basic grasp of the subjects. Other students may need just a little help with a particular topic and she is eager to introduce “new ways to understand.”

Ricky Robinson is on the staff of Gaston College, serving as a tutor and a facilitator in the Learning Center, where he coordinates tutors’ schedules, monitors testing that takes place in the Learning Center suite, and assists students, faculty, and staff as needed. Robinson joined the tutoring program in 2004, when a fellow accounting student who was serving as a tutor told him that more tutors were needed. Robinson’s grades far exceeded the program’s minimum 3.0 GPA requirement, so he took the mandatory training and he began tutoring for accounting and economics courses. At that time, he was the 18th tutor hired at Gaston College; to date, over 600 tutors have worked at the College.

Robinson earned two degrees from Gaston College—one in Accounting in 2005, and one in Business Administration in 2008. He has since taken additional classes for specialized instruction in economics. “My mission at Gaston College is to share my knowledge with other students so they can learn the material and get better grades,” said Robinson. “I want them to be confident in the possibility of future prosperity after they leave Gaston College.”

A 2016 graduate of Gaston College, Keith Fargason is called upon to tutor a wide variety of subjects, including Spanish, History, Philosophy, Ethics, Religion, and Integrated Reading and Writing (DRE). He joined the tutoring program in 2016 when he learned of the need for Spanish-language tutors.

Fargason, who has often worked up to 27 hours a week at the Learning Center, finds that Ethics is the most challenging subject to tutor. “Ethics involves memorization and application, and the students must learn theory,” he said. “Explaining it using real world applications from today’s news makes it relevant and that helps students make sense of it.”

Along with the other tutors, Fargason recognizes that some students are struggling to comprehend the subject matter and others just need reinforcement and affirmation that they are on the right track. “Sometimes a bit of encouragement goes a long way,” he said.

Cameron Cowell tutors students in statistics and developmental math (DMA). Cowell earned his Associate in Arts degree from Gaston College in 2012, having started his studies there in 2008. After graduating from Gaston College, he went on to Gardner-Webb University and received his 4-year degree in Criminal Justice in 2014.

Cowell began tutoring at Gaston College in 2011, and continued as a tutor throughout his time there and at Gardner-Webb. Currently, he works at the Learning Center approximately 28 hours a week. “Tutoring keeps me sharp,” he said. “It allows me to exercise my intellect while helping students develop their skills and build confidence, and I enjoy the feedback I get when my students tell me about their successes in class and on tests.”

In addition to working with the students who are assigned to him or have been referred directly to him by instructors, Cowell has sought out others who could benefit from his tutoring services. “I learned that over 100 students had registered for one of our on-line classes,” he said. “I knew that some students who aren’t physically on campus for classes may need extra help, so I contacted the course instructor with the hours that I would be available for tutoring. That effort connected me with more people I could assist.”

“Gaston College has been part of my life for a decade,” said Cowell. “From my first days as a student here in 2008, right up through graduation from Gardner-Webb and now as a tutor, I have had such a positive experience that my goal is to have a career at Gaston College.”

Shariat Sholeh is an Instructor of Mathematics at Gaston College. “I have noticed that my students’ performances get much better when they use the tutoring program,” she said. “It has made a great contribution to my students’ success. The Tutoring Center has not only offered tutoring sessions for the students outside of class, but also has provided support to the instructors when teaching large classes. In my math labs while I am busy helping some of the students, my math tutor helps the other students with their labs. I greatly appreciate that Gaston College has this resource and I also appreciate Mr. John Erickson’s leadership in operating the Tutoring Center and supporting Gaston College faculty and students.”

One of the students who has benefited from the tutoring program is Yaneli Banuelos, who is in the Nursing Program. Banuelos started at Gaston College in 2015 and will graduate in December 2018. Banuelos had struggled in a chemistry class and decided to repeat the class to improve her grade. In May 2018, on the recommendation of Chemistry Instructor Dr. Virginie Maggiotti, she began working with Chelsey King. “Through tutoring, I was able to gain knowledge and understanding of what I hadn’t grasped previously,” she said. “I’m more comfortable with chemistry content and formulas, and the practice problems Chelsey gives me to work on have helped me tremendously on tests.” With the support of the tutoring program, Banuelos’ chemistry grade has gone from a D to a B.

Banuelos plans to go to a four-year college, majoring in Forensic Nursing. She is considering Appalachian State, East Carolina University, and the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. She credits the Gaston College Tutoring Program, and Chelsey King in particular, with making her feel more secure about pursuing further education. “Chelsey is an angel,” said Banuelos. “I wish she were with me at all times and in all my classes. Working with her has given me confidence and boosted my self-esteem.”

For more information about the Gaston College Tutoring Program, visit The contact for the Dallas campus is John Erickson at 704-922-6349 or The contact for the Lincoln campus is Courtney Green at 704-748-5236 or

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