Working at LAMTON has taught me the importance of community in the Tibetan culture. From my very first tutoring session, I was struck at how close-knit the students and tutors were; I would observe a tutor helping a student with a math problem and only a moment later see them laughing together like old friends. When I first started tutoring, I was unsure how I would fit into the program, as I was one of a few non-Tibetan individuals that were present. I quickly realized, however, that the Tibetan students and mentors that I worked with were very inclusive. It was not long before I started developing meaningful relationships with both the students and tutors. I also learned that students would utilize the LAMTON sessions to not only get ahead in school but also stay connected with their culture. Often times I would hear students conversing with one another in their native language. Although I could not understand them, hearing such dialogues reminded me of my own Indian heritage and how important it is for first generation immigrants to understand and retain their cultural background. In addition, I saw that the staff members cared deeply for the students that they would tutor. Often times they would go beyond what was expected of them in order to enrich the curriculum that the students received. For example, a few of the tutors set up an out-of-state college tour for the sophomores and juniors. They were able to visit top-notch schools such as University of Wisconsin, Madison and the University of Chicago. Another time, the tutors set up a college and resume building workshop. They also offered ACT preparation classes at a reduced cost.
Another observation that I made about the Tibetan community while working at LAMTON is that individualism is not as valued as it is in western cultures. Instead, the Tibetan community places heavy emphasis on helping each other. As I talked to the students at LAMTON, I learned that the majority of Tibetan families came to the United States as refugees. Despite this struggle, the Tibetan community has shown a remarkable amount of resilience and tenacity in making sure that all of the students are successful in the future. This can be seen by the high expectations that the tutors set upon the students. Students are expected to not only be academically productive during the LAMTON sessions but also help one another so that everyone can do well. Perhaps the best way of describing this mentality is that one student’s success is felt as though it is everyone’s success. I noticed this particularly when the ‘Baller Tutee’ award was presented each week. The Baller Tutee award is given to four students (two male and two female) who would demonstrate a strong work ethic and productivity during a LAMTON tutoring session. The students and tutors would gather in a circle while the award winners were being announced. You could feel the positive encouragement and sense of accomplishment that everyone had for each week’s winner, and I think the award would inspire the students to work harder each week. I suppose the innate drive to help the community rubbed off on me, for the more I volunteered at LAMTON, the less it felt like I was there only to complete a class requirement and instead it felt like a fun and engaging activity. As the semester came to an end, I realized that I enjoyed tutoring the students too much to discontinue being involved with LAMTON. I decided that I would like to increase my involvement with the organization, and I am very excited to announce that I will be a board member for LAMTON this fall.
In conclusion, I learned about the importance of community and helping one another through my time at LAMTON.