Ask a Writing Tutor/Coordinator 


Sylvia Vega

Sylvia Vega, M.A., has been with Learning Support at CAC since 2012, and has 30+ year experience in education from 3rd grade on up through university levels. She is currently Coordinator of the Learning Center at the Maricopa campus.  


This is a comfortable, quiet place to study.  What exactly is Learning Support?  

Learning Support houses the Learning and Testing Centers. We offer a friendly, quiet place to study with comfy chairs and tables, and an open computer lab. Students are welcome to come in to study on their laptops or our computers, or just to relax. Our mission is to create a friendly environment that embraces diversity, builds self-confidence, and promotes independent, self-directed learners. We’re here to help students, staff, and the community rediscover their love of learning and develop their gifts to their highest potential. There’s a Learning Center at every campus, and it’s the de-stressing zone! 

We offer free tutoring in person, virtually through Blackboard Ultra, and online. Students can: get help from a tutor in Math, Writing, and other subjects; get support with important study skills for college success; form a study group and meet with classmates; attend workshops on topics such as Blackboard navigation, surviving college math, test-taking strategies, MLA, APA, note-taking, and more.  

Tutors will meet with students one-on-one to help with a specific assignment or review complex or dense material. Most tutors have sat where many students are now sitting and are ready to offer their experience and knowledge to help students succeed. 

The Learning Center is also where you come for proctored academic testing for online/virtual and hybrid classes.   

“What?! You speak Spanish?” 

Actually, si! Español was my first language, English my second, though in my head, they seamlessly run into each other. I was born in Havana and when I was little, my family moved to New York, fleeing Castro’s communist revolution.  Astoria, Queens is where I started kindergarten and learned English, but at home we spoke Spanish and ate arroz con frijoles (rice and beans), and platanitos fritos (fried plantains)—my favorite! Later we moved to Miami, Florida where I grew up, and everyone and everything was bilingual. I was blessed in that my parents made sure I could read and write in Spanish as well; plus, I had all of the auditory reinforcement from family and friends. With amigos, I am trilingual:  English, Spanish, plus Spanglish—a fun hybrid. 

If you visit my office, you’ll see reflections of Caribbean culture: one wall features the queen of salsa, Celia Cruz, and the other an illustration of a barista a lo cubano. Music and cafecito are very much a part of this cubanita’s soul. 

You tutor in writing, you train tutors in writing.  What’s your best advice for improving your writing? 

One of my favorite writing quotes is Louis L’Amour’s, “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”  My best advice is:  write!  I know, it’s like you can’t sleep, and I’m telling you to lie down and close your eyes. Some help, right? 

But I have found it to be true. Pen and paper work best because it’s more of a whole-body experience than typing on a keyboard—save that for later. Write it down: lists, ideas, plans, joys, worries, frustrations—all of it. If you’re staring at the blank page, start with the boring and obvious in everyday life—brushing your teeth, sipping on your coffee, the weather.  Keep going and all kinds of stuff will spill out onto the page. Don’t strive for perfect—don’t strive, just write!  Perfect is the enemy of good, and if you stick with the flow, you will eventually get to some good stuff worth developing, and then you can hit the keyboard. 

What does this have to do with college writing, you might ask? Writing improves when we have a sense of purpose and personal meaning. A regular practice of everyday writing will help you find your voice and passion, which transfer to the college assignment when you have to choose a topic that fires you up and then defend your position with evidence.  You might be surprised to find what fun you’re having! 

More suggestions . . . see a tutor!  Another reader’s response can be very helpful. Read your work aloud—you’ll catch missing words and all kinds of errors! Spent a lot of time on an assignment? Put it away: go for a walk, have a snack, watch a movie, sleep on it.  Then come back to it with fresh eyes.  My philosophy in a nutshell: write without fear, craft your writing, edit without mercy.