Profile | Alumni News

Alumni Voices: Remembering What Education Does

Anthony Perez HeadshotAs I walked into the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) on my first day working as the Full-Time Tutor at the Bard Microcollege, a mixture of excitement and trepidation roiled in my chest. The grandeur of the library building, with its open spaces, felt majestic, lending my role an aura of importance. But the library also triggered feelings of vulnerability. I felt small and insignificant. I felt lost in a seeming labyrinth of corridors within BPL, wondering if I could do a good job. So I did what I always do when I feel overwhelmed about things and find my confidence waning: I found confidence in academics.

Throughout my first few months at the Microcollege, tutoring sessions became havens for the difficulties of my personal journey as I reintegrated into society. During my very first session tutoring, I dove headfirst into the technical aspects of structuring a strong paper. The student, D, possessed brilliant ideas, but they were scattered throughout the paper, hindering their impact.  While outlining topic sentences felt like a straightforward exercise to me,—one that was reminiscent of my time as a student with the Bard Prison Initiative—I quickly realized the emotional weight it carried for D. His frustration stemmed not just from the paper, but from a deeper insecurity about his academic abilities. At the time, I wasn’t prepared for dealing with this level of vulnerability, and so, I solely focused on the objective aspects of the paper’s structure. Though D left feeling slightly better about his work, I knew I could—and should—be doing more.

By the end of the academic year, my approach had evolved significantly. Take, for example, a session with S. We were set to work on her final project, but as soon as she sat down, a wave of exhaustion washed over her. Life’s demands threatened to derail her focus. Recognizing this shift, I put the project aside. We spent the next hour simply talking, not about academics, but about life’s challenges. We connected on a human level, sharing stories and offering mutual support. By the time we circled back to the project, S’s perspective had shifted. The task seemed less daunting, and her ideas flowed with renewed clarity. This experience reinforced a crucial lesson that I had already learned during my time with BPI: at its core, education is more than just mastering subjects. It’s about creating a space where vulnerabilities can be acknowledged so that growth can flourish.

The essence of education is that it transforms individuals. It’s not just about mastering subjects but about becoming a better person. While tutoring at the Microcolleges, I realized that education transcends what holds us back. On my first day, I had allowed my fear to make me forget these fundamental truths. But the students at the Microcollege helped me to remember.

Anthony Perez ’15 is a graduate of the Bard Prison Initiative, having obtained a BA in Mathematics. He currently is the Full-Time Tutor for the Bard Microcollege at the Brooklyn Public Library, and he also serves as a Mathematics Expert for training AI.

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