Boro tutor center focuses on more than work

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Glen Oaks native Dennis Sze said he always wanted to start his own business, but could never put his finger on what that startup should be.

When the 30-year-old certified public accountant came up with the idea for his new after-school tutor center in Fresh Meadows, he wanted to change the way instructors help students in their academics.

“A lot of students get school work, but they have trouble with organizational skills,” he said.

The Creative Study Zone, at 182-10 Union Tnpk., provides homework help, SAT preparation and other classes after school and this summer will have a full schedule of courses for adolescents and teens. A team of four teachers, led by Dr. Robert Vellani, a 13-year veteran of teaching who has instructed students on SAT preparation, work with students in small groups to tackle the hardest academic school work.

Sze, a graduate of Bronx Science High School and SUNY Albany, said that aside from the rigorous sessions, the students also get lessons on other aspects of school.

“We teach them things like time management and organizing your desk and backpack,” he said. “These days the teachers don’t teach that anymore because they have no time and have too many students in their classrooms.”

For the center’s college prep courses, the teachers go beyond the basic practice SAT tests. Some sessions will focus on what to do when you get into college and how to choose the right path for a successful career.

“Some kids already have a mindset and know what they want to do in life. Others don’t. We want to help make it easy for everyone,” Sze said.

Another course will teach parents how to pay for college through financial aid and other means.

Sze said he has always helped to tutor children since his high school days. Over the last few years, he has helped with SAT prep at his church in Flushing and other places and decided that he could take his experience to a new level.

When he opened the Creative Study Zone in January, he said he aimed to make it different from the dozens of other SAT prep places in Queens by creating a staff that was experienced and professional.

“There are a lot of places out there that are just money-making places and just make the kids study for the test,” he said.

Sze said he has no problem with the city’s school system, but acknowledged that cuts to the budgets and overcrowding have left students with an academic void that needs to be filled in order for them to succeed in the real world.

“We’re not trying to take the jobs away from teachers, we’re supplementing them,” he said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Updated 10:52 am, October 12, 2011
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