CECS student Shawn El-Souri helps struggling students succeed

1/15/2018

El-Souri helps young adults earn their GEDs and tutors middle and high school students.

As a high school student, Shawn El-Souri took exams that would decide his future. He remembers the pressure he felt; knowing the scores would dictate his career path and educational opportunities.

Today, El-Souri—who was born in Dearborn, but grew up in Lebanon—uses his knowledge and experience to help GED students and underprivileged youth better navigate their own experiences.

“The psychological and social pressure was so intense,” said El-Souri, a computer engineering junior. “I have a supportive family, studied daily for hours and did well. But not everyone can get through testing pressure and pass—especially without help. I wanted to help.”

When El-Souri returned to the United States for college, he learned of opportunities to help struggling students succeed. He started in UM-Dearborn’s Math Learning Center and then branched out beyond the university community.

Along with a full course load of software and programming classes, El-Souri now mentors and tutors nearly every day of the week.

El-Souri works with the Office of Metropolitan Impact three days a week to help 16- to 22-year-old youth earn their GEDs. He’s also a mentor and tutor with the College of Engineering and Computer Science’s Extended Learning and Outreach, where he works with middle and high school students four times a week. Both positions are funded through the Justice Assistance Grant Program, which is a federal initiative to help get educational and crime-fighting resources to communities in need.

“These are very intelligent kids, but sometimes the pressure is too much,” said El-Souri, who is fluent in English and Arabic, but is learning Spanish to better help youth he meets. “These students have so much on their minds. I want to support them and let them know they can succeed even with the pressure, even when things are difficult. I’m not an education major, but I know the power of having a positive person in your life who believes in you.”

Walking from table to table at Covenant House Homeless Shelter in Detroit last semester, El-Souri coached GED students on math-section problems. Noticing a young man watching YouTube and drawing during the study session, El-Souri sat down next to him. The student said, “I hate math. I like art.”

El-Souri took a thoughtful pause, and then found a photo of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa online. He explained how math—with ratios and proportions—is an important part of art.

Weeks later, El-Souri said the student shows more interest in the lessons and now takes notes. He also said three GED students recently passed the exam.

“It feels so good to know they succeeded in something that I know wasn’t easy for them," he said. "When they reach their goals, I feel like I’m reaching mine too.”

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