VITAL Revisited

“Am I failing?”

A phrase that I have used way too much already this term, and, interestingly enough, never in the context of grades. This question has come up most frequently in my role in the Center for Community Engagement and Social Change (CCE). The Volunteers in Tutoring at Lawrence (VITAL) program was covered in the News section in our first edition, and I’d like to revisit that and provide a bit more of an authentic portrayal of my role in the CCE as Access to Education Program Coordinator.

On Wednesday, Oct. 6, Kristi Hill finished her last day at Lawrence. Hill had been here for roughly 15 years and was crucial in leading the student-staff of the CCE. I remember this day so well because it was one of the times where I asked if I was failing, desperate for my soon-to-be former boss to tell me something inspirational.

I couldn’t help it. Every day, I check my spreadsheets — maybe a bit obsessively, I’ll admit. I watch as families request tutors for so, so many different reasons. I read about these students who are just asking for someone to believe in them and support them.

While looking at those spreadsheets, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and like an utter failure. When I’m overcome by these feelings, I remember when I asked Hill if I was failing. Just as she told me that day, if I look at the good that is actually being done, it’s clear to see that I am not actually failing.

Every student-staff member in the CCE right now is likely experiencing a bit of stress or maybe even a lot, as we shift leadership. Staff from the Career Center are stepping in to support the office in any way they can, and we’re all adapting. It’s a bit wild, but I think we’re doing okay. 

As of Oct. 8, over 70 tutors have been requested through the VITAL Program. This number haunts me a bit since I know that we do not have 70 tutors. However, each of those requests is an opportunity to make an impact in a student’s life. Each request is the opportunity for Lawrentian to support an Appleton student and show that they care.

Those opportunities remind me why I am so passionate about equal access to education. Each of those requests represent someone asking for support, asking for their potential to be defended during these wild times. 

So, as I begin tutoring my VITAL tutee, I’m reminded of the importance of my work in the CCE. I’m not a failure, even when I really feel like it. My tutors are great, and I receive more applications every day. I’d love more, for sure, but we are still making an impact.

Despite a sudden transition of leadership, the CCE is going strong — continuing its mission to prepare students for “lives of achievement, responsible and meaningful citizenship, lifelong learning, and personal fulfillment.”

To my VITAL tutors, thank you so much for your commitment to supporting the education of Appleton students. To those of you who are not VITAL tutors — yet — please consider applying. For more information, email or visit to apply.