For most first-time college students, transitioning from the carefully structured and monitored format of public schooling into a more self-reliant realm of higher education can be challenging. 

In addition to navigating the more social aspects of college, educational coursework remains at the heart of every student’s curriculum. 

So what happens when they encounter a situation in which educational and social inexperience collide? Students who struggle with a particular subject may be uncertain as to how to resolve the issue. 

This is precisely why the Texas Southmost College Center for Academic Excellence (CAE) exists. Located in Mary Rose Cardenas North Hall, CAE is a beacon of hope to many students who encounter an assignment with which they are having difficulty completing or even understanding. 

“Our goal is to help TSC students become independent learners,” says CAE lab supervisor Reyes Maraboto. “We want them to feel confident working independently, whether at school or out in the workforce.” 

One of the most awkward positions a new student could find themselves in is walking into a room and telling a stranger, “I don’t understand my assignment—can you help me?” It’s an admission of vulnerability, but the CAE staff understand it fully well. 

“Our tutors have also been students, so they understand that classes can be a struggle sometimes, but because they have that understanding and ability to relate, they have been able to help hundreds of students do better in their classes,” says CAE Lab Supervisor Michael Espinoza believes that the student-tutor connection is a vital part of that formula. 

CAE tutors are not only selected based on their aptitude with certain subjects; they are also evaluated on their ability to assess, relate to, reassure, and assist students in a way that, simply put, makes it okay for students to admit that they don’t know something. Creating and fostering a nonjudgmental space has allowed the CAE to thrive and provide crucial assistance to students who seek it.  

However, Maraboto also wants to stress that the CAE is much more than just a tutoring center. 

“If a student is not ready to work with a tutor right away, that’s okay. They can study independently until they are ready to ask for help, use the space to work in a group with some of their classmates, or simply unwind or have lunch in between classes. They do not have to meet with a tutor to enjoy the Center.” 

For more information about CAE, please call 956-295-3790 or visit their main office in North Hall 122.