Former Canfield spelling champ launches test tutoring program

By Denise Dick


Max Lee believes the community has been good to him, and he wants to give something back.

Max, 16, a junior at Canfield High School, is launching Gateway Prep, a nonprofit ACT/SAT preparation organization.

“My goal is to give back to the community,” he said.

Max, who twice earned grand champion honors at The Vindicator Regional Spelling Bee while in middle school, wants to share the skills and knowledge he’s garnered by taking the standardized tests used by colleges and universities.

He took the ACT four times, earning a perfect 36 the last time.

The first time he was nervous, but he honed a method to make the most use of the time allotted for the exams. He also studied a lot and learned to relax.

He has some volunteer mentors, students from Ursuline, Boardman and Canfield high schools, who will join him in the tutoring duties.

“It’s students helping other students to do better,” Max said.

He plans to offer the sessions at no charge a few days per week at both the Boardman Branch of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County and the West Side Community Center, a Neighborhood Ministries facility next to William Holmes McGuffey Elementary School in Youngstown.

Max especially wants to help economically disadvantaged students.

Appointments can be set up by email at or by phone at 330-506-0023. A website, MyGatewayprep,com, soon will be online as well.

The effort will be funded mainly by donations. Contributions may be made by calling 330-774-5119 or through the email address or website.

The tutoring program is only Max’s latest effort at giving back.

For the past few years, he’s been entertaining residents of Shepherd of the Valley with weekly piano performances.

Max, who’s been studying and playing piano for nine years, also performs for patients at Akron Children’s Hospital.

“It helps to take a little bit of the stress away” for the children, he said,

He’s studied mostly classical music but the addition of the young audience prompted him to add to his repertoire.

“With playing for the kids, I’ve started to learn some Disney songs,” he said.

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