Rutherford County Schools: ‘Students helping students’

Jul 28, 2021 at 08:47 am by WGNS


Ashley Huerta was one of 440 high school students who participated in the traditional summer school program. 

The soon-to-be-junior at Smyrna High School was enrolled in her junior English in hopes of accomplishing her goal of graduating a year early and to do so with honors. 

In past summers, like Huerta, 85 percent of all students enrolled in summer school courses were taking a course for the time to work ahead of their classmates. In those cases, students are either following an accelerated curriculum to make room for a second pathway or, like Huerta, graduate early. 

This summer was different. 

Just in the month of June, more than 680 students were recovering credits because of academic hardships related to challenges stemming from the pandemic. That said, Huerta and others took advantage of the volunteer efforts of four high-achieving students — Jabeen Zehra, Ashleigh Clark, Charlotte Nance and Ellie Burton — from Central Magnet School. 

The quartet offered as much as 22 hours of one-on-one peer tutoring via Zoom on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which helped to fulfill Central’s community service requirement.  

The sessions not only helped with course work, but Central students also assisted with preparations for the ACT. 

In order to graduate with honors, Huerta would need a minimum scores of 18 in English, 22 in math, 22 in reading and 23 in science on her ACT. She took a practice test earlier this month and improved her English score from 12 to 28, her reading score from 17 to 25, her science from 21 to 24 and improved her composite score by six points. 

Afterward, Huerta sent Burton a note that read in part, “Thank you so much for your time and how patient you were with me.” She also referred to Burton as “the G.O.A.T.” and the sweetest person she has ever met. 

“I want everyone to know that it has not been easy at all for me,” wrote Huerta, who went on to explain, “We all have our issues out of school, and it affects how we feel towards school. Last year, I believe, was the hardest for me (and, well, basically anyone). I was blessed enough to have parents who support me and push me to get better. I truly didn't believe I could meet the ACT scores. English isn't my (first) language so the reading portion was more time-consuming than anything. Throughout my eight weeks in junior English class, I've learned so much and seen many improvements. Sometimes, I wouldn't though and that would be the hardest for me. Early graduation is such an important goal for not only my parents but for me to feel accomplished with a lifelong goal and walk that stage. Everyone has their doubts and, to me, graduating early seemed impossible. But with the strength from my family and my God, I know I've got this.” 

Huerta hopes to improve her scores yet again and now she has a goal of earning academic scholarships. 

Huerta’s summer school classmate Mia Lamb, who attends Eagleville School, improved her composite ACT score by five points. Even though it was virtual, Lamb felt she benefitted from working with a fellow student “in my age group” to identify “trends in my mistakes.”


The past two months have not only impacted Huerta, Lamb and other fellow classmates, but equally impacted their peer tutors, who saw it as a fulfilling experience. 

“It was amazing to watch them all improve so much and know that both of our efforts were paying off,” Burton said. “These students came in each day and really worked hard to get the most out of our time and I enjoyed getting to know them and seeing their achievements. 

“I grew so much as … a tutor and a test-taker over the past six weeks, and I'm so grateful for the chance to work with these students.” 

Though Huerta is hoping to graduate next year, this year’s summer school graduation will take place July 30 at Blackman High School beginning at 6 p.m. There are 75 graduates and 65 of them have indicated they will participate in Friday’s ceremony. 

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