Sunset High student nonprofit keeps kids virtually engaged
Laasya Yenduri is an academic at heart. But when the COVID-19 pandemic closed down schools and classes went remote, she didn't feel engaged. "It wasn't really learning," she said.
Yenduri, a rising senior at Sunset High School in Beaverton, said she noticed that her elementary school-aged brother was bored all day, and she saw an opportunity.
"I actually wanted to do tutoring for a very long time," Yenduri said, "And looking at my brother being so bored at home, I kind of took that idea to the next level."
Through CyberBORN, a nonprofit Yenduri founded, she and its high school-aged board set up free, virtual workshops for kids to keep them academically engaged.
The nonprofit CyberBORN was originally founded as a school club but became a full-blown nonprofit in 2018, with a mission to spread awareness and support the education of impoverished children around the world.
Yenduri said she first thought of founding CyberBORN as a sophomore while visiting India with her family. Her parents sponsored a child at an orphanage, and they went to visit her, Yenduri said.
"I'd heard about child poverty, I'd seen it to some extent, but not at that level, you know. We're very lucky to live here," Yenduri said. "And I realized that many youth living in countries that are not underdeveloped do not have this exposure, have not seen this. And I thought that I would bring more awareness to the youth here."
Before the pandemic, CyberBORN had helped people to sponsor children in developing countries and raised the funds to donate two computer labs in India, Yenduri said.
Now CyberBORN's focus has moved stateside. The organization offers two kinds of virtual lessons, Yenduri said. Yenduri and other high school-aged volunteers teach hour-long workshops each weekday for elementary-aged students, each focusing on a different topic, such as geometry or bracelet-making.
CyberBORN also hosts boot camps for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. These weeklong programs take a deep dive into one particular topic each week.
"My goal is to kind of keep these kids engaged with academics, engaged with whatever they've been learning in a fun and interesting way," Yenduri said.
CyberBORN has also hosted free virtual yoga lessons and donated masks and meals as other ways to contribute during the pandemic.
Parents Vidyashree Esturi and Kanchana Chigarambatla signed their daughters up for the classes after hearing about them through Whatsapp group chats. They said they wanted their children to learn something while at home during the pandemic.
Esturi said it was helpful for her as a parent to keep her 8-year-old daughter busy, but it also introduced her daughter to new concepts, like blog writing and algebra. Esturi's daughter is not learning those concepts in school yet, she said, but she will be more prepared when she does.
"The volunteers are taking so much effort and spending more time to prepare presentations and to present with the students," Esturi said.
Chigarambatla has a 10-year-old daughter who loves the program. "She never misses even a single class," she said.
One that stood out to Chigarambatla was a boot camp about oncology. "She found it really interesting," she said. "She had no idea what cancer is or anything, so she learned a lot."
Around 50 students take part in the daily workshops, while 20 to 25 participate in the boot camps.
As the school year draws nearer, Yenduri said she's considering continuing the program with less frequency or as a weekend program so it doesn't interfere with classes. Both Esturi and Chigarambatla said if the times work for their kids, they'll keep signing them up into the school year.
"I really, really enjoyed the experience," Yenduri said. "The smile they have on their faces after they figure something out that they've been trying to do the last 30 minutes … it's truly magical."
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