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Giving back locally through Hempstead High School

Giving back locally through Hempstead High School

Photo Courtesy of Madison Mento

“The first day I tutored was both empowering and disheartening,” said sophomore public relations major Madison Mento. “The Hempstead school system is so underfunded and those students derserve so much better than what’s being provided them, so I decided that I would tutor and be involved with the high school.”

With a graduation rate of only 39%, according to the New York State Educational Department, Hempstead High School students’ grades and test scores are receiving a much-needed boost thanks to the Hempstead High School Initiative. This program is co-directed by Mento and Daria Valan, a sophomore philosophy major. The program is co-sponsored by the Center of Civic Engagement and the Honors College.

Valan and Mento, two fellows at the Center for Civic Engagement, united to co-direct the program this semester. As students extremely dedicated to their education, both saw the Hempstead High School Initiative as an opportunity to help students in a struggling school system reach their maximum potential. 

Volunteers tutor two hours a week at Hempstead High School in subjects that they feel comfortable teaching and the students work with the tutor that best meets their needs. 

“The goal of the program is to increase the graduation rate,” Valan said. “We want to help students move on to secondary education.”

Students are tutored in a variety of subjects, including the New York State Regents Examinations in biology, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, history, chemistry, earth science and physics. The program helps students with SAT and ACT preparation, college and scholarship applications, essays and general coursework. 

Mento and Valan have both been heavily involved in the Honors College throughout their time at Hofstra. Valan has been tutoring students for over a year through the Honors College and decided, along with Mento, to get more involved with the program.

“Freshman year I began tutoring students and I fell in love with the program. It was an incredibly rewarding program from day one,” Valan said. This experience inspired her to create a tutoring initiative of her own. “I am one of the co-directors of the program, which gives me even more ability to help.”

“There have been so many memorable experiences already,” Valan said. One student, after struggling on two exams, came in passing their last Regents exam after being tutored in the program. “[This was the last thing] needed to finally obtain their high school diploma.” 

“Friday [April 5th] was the first day since Daria and I have become co-directors [and] the entire room was full of Hempstead and Hofstra students. There was so much learning and collaborating going on in the room that I got a little emotional,” Mento said.

“Every single tutor was working with at least one Hempstead student and they were lauging, chatting and working as a team. That’s all Daria and I have wanted this whole time, is to get Hempstead students to be connected with our students and for them to realize that we are there for them and aren’t going anywhere. It was so special and overwhelmingly fulfilling to see that I almost cried.

“All the hard work and long hours Daria and I have put into building the program back up this semster were right in front of my eyes.”

One student that Mento formerly worked with also came back to thank her, saying that she made it into college and would not have been able to do it without her. 

“Seeing the experience that these kids have makes me want to make resources, like books, available for them,” Valan said. “These students are resilient, they want to succeed.”

Anyone can be involved with the tutoring program by contacting, or reach out to Valan or Mento at and, respectively. 

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