With a strong desire to improve the lives of people around her, Sophia Rueda began her tutoring journey by mentoring her younger sisters as the family relocated across the world throughout her childhood. Originally from Colombia, Sophia is currently an undergraduate student majoring in Neuroscience at UCLA. She enjoys reading, writing and practicing yoga.
When asked about her motivation for tutoring, she said, “My younger sister would get confused with languages because we only spoke Spanish at home. Helping her read and practice English was one of the main driving factors. I was also the leader of a program that provided English lessons to underprivileged kids in schools outside of Bogota; we would practice mindfulness before lessons which had a significant impact on students. This was the second main factor behind my motivation.”
Sophia works as a Research Assistant at UCLA, where the lab is actively researching non-invasive depression treatment to understand the brain mechanisms underlying specific mental health therapies. She also works as a Resident Assistant at UCLA, where she helps to develop community and manages events and students’ wellbeing. She also spent two years working as a primary school tutor at Brockton Elementary School in Los Angeles, where she helped young students develop their reading and writing skills.
With four years of tutoring experience, Sophia tutors three students of different grade levels at Neuron Education. “When I get a new kid, I really like to learn the way they comprehend knowledge,” she remarked, explaining how she begins her tutoring process. “I take a few sessions to understand the student on a personal level, the way they think, things they struggle with, and their strengths and challenges in school.”
She said of her tutoring technique, “Because I take the time to understand a student, I guide them through answers. Rather than directly providing solutions, I urge them to look at the situation and explain what is going on so we can brainstorm together and work through the solutions. This enables them to genuinely grasp what is going on.”
Sophia shared a memorable achievement with one of her high school students. “I’d used this skill before, but it was the first time I took a step back to put it into action at Neuron Education. My student was bright and we worked on personal development techniques together," she explained. “I gave her topics to speak on for a minute and build her public speaking abilities which made her confidence soar after a few sessions.''
“One of the main aspects of my tutoring is self-reflection. I assist my students to think on a broader level when it comes to learning. By the end of last year, my high school student was able to take ownership of her actions, owing to the self-reflection strategies we worked on.” Sophia talked about how she helped her students grow as people, not just as students. “One of my students in 7th grade, who is already mature, is able to incorporate self-reflection in her learning now.” she noted. “We worked extensively on reading, interpreting texts and critical thinking about how she ties the text to the larger sense of the world.”
“Learning never stops for anyone”, she exclaimed. “I always take a few minutes after a session to internalize everything and understand how this impacts me as a person. I’ve learned to be more inquisitive about my surroundings. Sometimes, we stress about grades so much that we forget to enjoy what we are learning.”
Parents who worked with Sophia praised her ability to intuitively engage and connect with students, with one parent of a 12-year-old noting that her daughter refers to Sophia as “her therapist” at home.
One of the challenges she talked about was the resistance from students. “I understand parents want their kids to get higher grades but sometimes students don’t understand why they are there. I could see some frustration in a few of my students initially, but I believe taking a step back and explaining why this will benefit them in the long run is vital so that they leave each session feeling good about it and taking away new information.”
Sophia’s biggest passions are the brain and mental health. “Besides my research on brain and related disorders, I have a holistic understanding to help people in a way that will benefit them through yoga and therapies.” She spoke about what she loves doing.
Sophia’s overarching goal is to advance the field of mental health in a positive way. She hopes to get a counseling license since she is passionate about helping children on a personal level. She would also like to translate and implement her research in her hometown, Colombia, by hosting mentorship programs for young scientists to help them advance in their mental health studies.