Ellicott City: Students tutor students through Peer2Peer at Patapsco Middle School PTA meetings

How would you like free tutoring for your children? That's what the Patapsco Middle School PTA is offering during their monthly meetings to PTA members and school parents.

The program is courtesy of Patapsco parent Melissa Barrett, owner of Peer2Peer Tutors Howard County. While the parents meet to discuss school and PTA matters, their children are given free instruction by Peer2Peer tutors.

"Our company philosophy is to give back to the community," Barrett said.

While the tutoring is free during the Patapsco Middle PTA meetings for school parents, any Howard County parent can take advantage of the in-home tutoring sessions that Peer2Peer Tutors offers for students in all grade.

Peer2Peer Tutors is unique in that the tutors are middle and high school students. And not just any students, the company hires only the top 5 percent of students in their class with grade-point averages between 3.8 and 4.4, near perfect SAT scores who are active leaders in sports, music and clubs. In addition, tutor applicants go through a rigorous screening and training process that tests their subject knowledge and ability to be good communicators.

For students in need of tutoring, Barrett painstakingly pairs each one personally with a tutor based on their interests, personality and school district. She believes that when a tutee is paired with a another student who knows the coursework, tests, and in some cases even the teachers, they have an innate ability to relate to the students and "speak the same language."

Established four years ago, Peer2Peer Tutors has more than 70 clients in our county that are tutored in subjects from on-grade level school classes through advanced placement courses, Gifted and Talented tests, SAT prep and Maryland State Assessments.

As Peer2Peer Tutors grows, Barrett would like to expand it's community giving by offering free tutoring services to more PTA's during their monthly meetings and free private tutoring hours for schools holding fundraisers, raffles, silent auctions, etc. call Melissa Barrett at 443-636-0955 for more information or go to the company website at http://www.peer2peertutors.com.

Only five more days until Valentine's Day! There are a variety of local Howard County stores and restaurants that are offering sweet heart specials for the big day.

Here are a few suggestions: If you're cooking a romantic dinner at home, stop by Clark's Elioak Farm on Route 108 for locally grown, naturally-raised, grass-fed beef, naturally raised pork and Howard County farms Bowling Green's cheeses and Woodcamp's raw honey.

Through March, Clark's farm is open on Thursdays from 3 to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 3 p.m. Just drive into the petting farm parking lot, go into the Castle Store building, pick your locally farm items.

Are you planning to eat out for Valentine's Day? Check out Historic Ellicott City's Pure Wine Cafe and Tersiguel's French Country restaurants, both are offering unique and creative Valentine Day's Chef menus. Pure Wine Cafe's special is called the "Pure Aphrodisia" menu and includes "Naughty and Nice" oysters and purple risotto.

To make reservations or to learn more about their Valentine's Day menu go to the restaurants' websites at http://www.purewinecafe.com and http://www.tersiguels.com.

If you haven't quite found the right present? Consider the gift that gives unconditional love year round — adopting a pet. There are plenty of fury bundles of joy waiting for forever homes at both the Small Miracles Cat Rescue on Route 108 and at the Howard County animal shelter. Animals waiting adoption include dogs, cats, rabbits, birds and guinea pigs. For more information go to the Cat Rescue website at http://www.petfinder.com/shelters/MD257.html and the Animal Advocates of Howard County website at http://www.animal-advocates.org.

"Library Finds" — Here's my first installment of interesting and fun finds at our new Miller Branch Library. Remember the old Miller Library's collection box? It was often filled and trying to squeeze another return often required skill and creativity. Those days are gone thanks to the new Miller Library's radio frequency identification system.

Recently, I returned library books using the outside drive-through deposit. This is no ordinary return experience. Using a Radio Frequency Identification systems all returns are done electronically. This means when an item is put in the return collection it is automatically identified, removed from your account, sorted to where it needs to be returned in the library system and a receipt is available.

The system allows four different language choices English, Korean, Chinese and Hindi. And my favorite part of the outside book return — the overhead covering that allows you and your items to remain dry. If you make returns inside the library, there are two self-return stations on the upper floors and multiple stations on the first floor near the check-out and entrance.

More Library news next week. I welcome your own "Library Finds." Feel free to email me your observations at lisagueliregnante@verizon.net.

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