As the coronavirus pandemic was in full swing this past April, several area students decided to enlist the help of their peers and create a student-led, nonprofit organization to help tutor other students, with a focus on those traditionally underserved students.
What they came up with was Students Tutor Students, an organization founded by five students from area high schools, including seniors Brian Xu of Jesuit High School and Claire Ku of Tualatin High School.
Xu, a Bethany resident who is president and founder of Students Tutor Students, said many of his friends wondered how they could help other students once the pandemic began.
"And I was moved by that, and personally, I wanted to help out in the ways I best knew how to," said Xu.
One of the first things the new organization needed to do was to find student tutors, and later, students to teach as well.
"We had this massive outreach strategy where we ended up posting on Nextdoor," said Xu. "We ended up utilizing Facebook ads, going to school districts and asking if maybe we could get featured to try to get potential students and also tutors to join our organization."
Before long, they were able to enlist the help of 100 student tutors, drawing them from Jesuit, Tualatin, Mountainside, Catlin Gabel, St. Mary's Academy and Grant high schools.
But the organizing tutors didn't stop there. In July, the organization hosted a free online summer learning camp called KickStart — not to be confused with Kickstarter, the crowdfunding platform — hoping to reach as many students as possible.
While the summer program wasn't one-on-one tutoring, it allowed the student tutors to reach elementary and middle school students with creative lessons in four subjects: English, mathematics, science and art.
"One of the issues that we're kind of faced with is the degree of learning loss that this pandemic (impacted) our community," said Ku, a Tualatin resident who is director of programing for Students Tutor Students. "One of the ways we thought we could negate that was through this summer camp idea we had, so that's where KickStart comes in."
The program proved to be a huge success. They even created a video highlighting the KickStart program.
Over the course of four weeks, the online summer learning camp taught more than 100 students. While some attended only specific online classes, most attended each day.
The tutors tried to create activities that would help them bond with the students as well.
"We are just so happy to be able to have that kind of positive impact on students' lives," said Ku. "It made my day to see our campers come be like, 'Oh, we're so excited for KickStart.'"
Ku said one mother who signed up her elementary-school-aged son for the summer school said she was worried he wouldn't sign on but promised to do her best and have him tune into the first day of class.
Ku said that was fine.
"We'd love to have him join us," Ku told the student's mother, adding that the boy signed on and "he ended up loving it."
For visual ques, the tutors used Google Slides and screensharing via Google Meets, said Ku, pointing out that the goal was to keep the curriculum interesting.
"We wanted it to be more like a curious approach (to learning)," said Ku. "We didn't want it to just be, 'OK, here's an example of how you do it, now go do 10 more problems.'"
Along the way, the online summer classes attracted some stellar guest speakers, including a researcher from Oregon Health Sciences University's blood-brain barrier laboratory as well as professors from both Stanford University and Seattle University.
"We just got a lot of really cool people to come talk with the kids," said Xu. "I think they learned something that they wouldn't usually get in school, and that was kind of our hope — to inspire them to love the act of learning more than just what they get from school every day."
Meanwhile, in addition to Xu and Ku, the executive board includes: Devansh Khunteta, technical director, Jesuit High School; Jamie Turner, creative director, Jesuit High School; Aadi Mukherjee, outreach coordinator, Sunset High School; and Ziggy Berkoff, public relations director, Jesuit High School.
For more information, visit [email protected]
(This article has been updated to correct the title of an executive board member.)
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