Many students at Blackburn College probably have met Montreal Thomas. He tutors students in math, political science and will also work as a writing assistant this fall, while attending classes at the Carlinville, Illinois, campus. Thomas, a senior from Peoria, is the oldest of five children in his family. This fall, he begins his senior year and expects to graduate in May 2023 with a double major in math and political science, and a minor in English.
Thomas chose Blackburn because it was affordable, close to home, and it had rolling admissions, he said. He likes the community atmosphere, knows other students well and visits professors often. “It’s like having a second home away from my home in Peoria,” he said.
Growing up, Thomas would tell people his favorite subject in school was math. He’d done well in math classes at Richwoods High School in Peoria, and it continued at Blackburn. He became a political science major as a sophomore at Blackburn. “I engage with the news a lot, and just from seeing all of the discourse in our media today and how separated people are, I think it would be something to add on top of my mathematics degree to balance it out and be well oriented. I always liked to read,” he said. After college, Thomas isn’t sure about a career, but he is focused on taking the Law School Admission Test.
When he first came to Blackburn, Thomas, a first-generation student, had a peer mentor, a junior named Rommel. “He would ask me if I needed anything or someone to talk to,” Thomas said. “I didn’t have many one-on-one conversations back in high school or anything, so having someone be there to let you know that everything is going to be OK was kind of refreshing.”
Thomas began as a math tutor in his sophomore year. The following year, he became a tutor in political science, and this fall, he will add writing assistant to his tutoring work. Tutoring has paid off for Thomas personally. “I’ve had a big problem with anxiety, but also like helping people, so this was a way for me to meet and talk to people in not very large spaces,” he said. “It was like a three-on one, or five people in a room having a fluid conversation. That’s really helped me.”
One subject that comes up a lot in his tutoring work is time management, a familiar theme for peer mentoring students. “Blackburn is a work college, so, being able to balance your work and also being able to perform in your classes is a pretty tough thing to do. Having that skill both in academics and outside of school is a good thing to have,” he said.
On campus, Thomas is vice president of the Black Student Union, vice president of Spectrum, a gay/straight alliance club, and he serves in the Blackburn College Student Senate.