ARABIAN SEA — Taking college courses at sea can often be a challenge for service members because of the long hours and demanding schedule. Aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4), a tutoring program has been established to help Sailors attending college courses succeed during deployment.
“The tutoring program is a volunteer program aboard Boxer set up to help our shipmates that are taking college courses,” said Chief Navy Career Counselor Jane Epaloose, from Central Islip N.Y., one of the tutors aboard.
Lt. j.g. Chelsea Irish, from Phoenixville, Pa., the program coordinator, started the program to help Sailors and to provide an opportunity for assistance.
“I jumped at the opportunity to create a tutoring program aboard Boxer because to me there is no better way to use my time,” said Irish.
Tutors are available to offer help in a wide variety of subjects.
“We have 25 tutors available aboard Boxer, that have bachelor's degrees or higher, for subjects such as math, science, history and social sciences,” said Epaloose.
The program has no schedule restrictions and is set up so each Sailor can receive as much help as needed to ensure success.
“Tutoring is available around the schedule of the tutor and the student, as long as both members have the time,” said Epaloose.
A student that worked with Epaloose enjoyed the extra help needed for her classes.
“I was really struggling with my English and with the stressors of work it really helped to go to her and have the help,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Joni Bills, from Stockton, Calif.
Bills initiated the idea of a tutoring program by making a suggestion in the commanding officers suggestion box.
“I was struggling, and I was going to people asking questions. I thought if only we had a program that streamlined people that want to help to the students it would help me and others in the same situation,” said Bills.
Bills feels appreciative of having her tutoring idea turn into a realization.
“It takes the stress off. When one is struggling, rather than panic about it you know where to turn to and what to do, and it feels good knowing that there may be other people in my situation who will have a place to turn to for the help,” she said.
At sea, students have limited resources and don’t get the same opportunities that traditional college students get.
“I think a tutoring program is important because most of our degree programs in the Navy are online, and sometimes the student might need a little hands on instruction to help them understand the subject matter more clearly,” said Epaloose.
Irish says Sailors are motivated to get the help they need through tutors standing by to assist them in reaching their goals.
“In today’s world a college education is essential. It opens the door to a multitude of opportunities. Knowing that my shipmates have a place to turn for help with their studies is rewarding for me,” Irish said.
Earning an associate's degree earns a Sailor two points on the Navy Advancement Exam, and a bachelor's degree earns a Sailor four.
“Every Sailor should take the maximum benefits they can while serving their country. The only barrier to achieving your dreams is you,” said Epaloose.
Boxer is the flagship for the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.