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Students Create Free Tutoring Services To Help During The Pandemic

Above photo: A group that includes Annette Yuan, a junior at Irvine High, has expanded beyond Southern California and now tutors students from Seattle to Toronto. StudySmart Youth Services.

Alex Yan and Arvin Ding, seniors at Irvine’s Portola High School, have held free weekly in-person tutoring sessions for elementary and middle school students since they started their organization Math at the Library in 2017.

When COVID-19 hit, their team of high schoolers quickly transitioned to online tutoring and later banded together with two other student volunteer organizations — Girls Empowering Girls, founded by Annette Yuan, a junior at Irvine High School, which offers one-on-one English conversation practice with language learners, and Code Champion, a coding class Ding started with his sophomore sister Cindy Ding — to form the nonprofit StudySmart Youth Services.

While the teens previously served their local community, now they tutor students from Seattle to Toronto.

The Irvine youths are part of a growing number of advantaged high school and college students across the country who have stepped up during campus shutdowns and mandated distance learning, hoping to help narrow the educational gap between students who can afford to hire private tutors and those who can’t and are quickly falling behind.

Emme Shaffer, a senior at the Buckley School in Sherman Oaks, and her team of high school students have tutored over 500 students since she started Tutor Together in the spring.

Recent high school graduate Dana Lin, from Pasadena, was a volunteer instructor teaching stem cell biology at the Wave Learning Festival, a student-run educational platform that was founded in May by undergraduates from universities like Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania.

Triplets Sonia, Esha and Nikhil Mathur, high school juniors in Tucson, started Peer 2 Peer Tutoring to help high school students who were missing school because of health reasons.

But since the pandemic, they’ve opened up their services to all students, and since May, P2P Tutoring has expanded from Arizona to five other states, including a branch in Granite Bay that serves all of California.

These teen volunteers hope to help fill an exponentially growing demand.

In August, the Los Angeles Unified School District partnered with the startup Step Up Tutoring to offer free one-on-one tutoring, though they currently only serve the communities of Huntington Park, Fremont and Taft. Even if the pilot is successful, Step Up co-founder Nati Rodriguez told the L.A. Times it’d likely take two years to make the services available for all students in the district.

Other organizations around Southern California and beyond are adapting their tutoring programs to distance learning.

Eddie D. Tafoya, the CEO and executive director of The Southeast Community Foundation, said the tutors at their Enrichment Tutoring Academy are hired credentialed teachers, supported by grants and donations.

The Enrichment Tutoring Academy has been serving the neighborhoods of Southeast Los Angeles, from Montebello to Compton and from Huntington Park to La Mirada since 2015.

He anticipates it’ll be a challenge for them to meet the high demand this year.

Here is a list of some free virtual tutoring resources:

Many of these websites have detailed information about their staff and partners, tutor vetting process, platforms used, privacy and safety precautions, testimonials, languages available and any restrictions. Parents should familiarize themselves with the procedures of any tutoring service they choose and monitor all their children’s online interactions.

The COVID nineTEEN Project
About: Started by 17-year-olds Sarah Shapiro and Skye Loventhal from Granada Hills Charter School, the COVID nineTEEN project offers one-on-one tutoring in 15 languages through 30-minute sessions. They also offer other teen-led activities. Activities available for the week are updated on the website the Friday morning prior.
Age: First to fifth grade
Subjects: English, math, science, history
Contact: Register; volunteer

El Nido Family Centers
About: A social service nonprofit agency, El Nido Family Centers provide counseling and family support services to disadvantaged communities in L.A. El Nido started offering tutoring during the pandemic, when many of its clients requested extra support for their children struggling with distance learning.
Age: Elementary school to college students
Subjects: Reading and math
Contact: (323) 998-0093; volunteer; donate

Evergreen Initiative
About: Founded in 2018 by Steven Luo, a junior at Evergreen Valley High School in San Jose, the Evergreen Initiative provided free in-person tutoring to locals in the Bay Area pre-pandemic, in addition to online tutoring for anyone with internet access. It has continued its virtual tutoring during shelter-in-place orders.
Age: Kindergarten to 12th grade
Subjects: Math, English, history, biology, Chinese, physics, computer science and other elementary school subjects
Contact: Register; volunteer

Jumpstart Tutoring
About: Founded by Drew Soshensky in 2019, Jumpstart Tutoring started with Soshensky tutoring a few students in person, and now there are about 40 high school and college students who offer free one-on-one tutoring. Soshensky is based in New York, though tutors are based all around the world.
Age: Fifth to 12th grade
Subjects: Math, history, test prep and FAFSA applications (coming soon)
Contact: Register; volunteer

Kara Tutoring
About: Founded in 2018, Kara Tutoring is a student-led organization that has more 250 tutors in over 45 countries. Tutors are required to score at least 1500 on their SATs.
Limited to: Students who receive public assistance; live in public housing or a foster home or are homeless; receive financial aid or have other financial disadvantages
Subjects: U.S. and international test prep and general subject tutoring
Contact: Register; volunteer; donate

Los Angeles Public Library
About: The Los Angeles Public Library provides free online tutoring through, powered by the Princeton Review. Students just need to enter a library card barcode and password, and it’s available daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. The student and tutor work in a virtual classroom with chat and two-way white boards.
Age: Kindergarten to 12th grade
Subjects: Homework help in math, science, English, social studies and writing, career resources and SAT/ACT essentials
Contact: Register

Pandemic Professors
About: In April, Harley Simpson founded Pandemic Professors alongside a group of fellow UC Berkeley graduates to connect low-income students with free tutors.
Age: Kindergarten to 12th grade
Subjects: Homework help, language, math, science, reading, coding, college application and financial aid, fitness, career guidance and more
Contact: Register; volunteer; donate

Peer 2 Peer Tutoring
About: Peer 2 Peer Tutoring (P2P Tutoring) was founded by high school students Sonia, Esha and Nikhil Mathur in 2018 to help students who were missing school due to sick days. The nonprofit expanded during the pandemic to help any student in need. They work with principals and teachers to try and find tutors in the student in need’s school or class, so they can teach the same material.
Age: High school, elementary and middle school
Subjects: All
Contact: Register; volunteer; donate

Southeast Community Foundation’s Enrichment Tutoring Academy
About: Pre-COVID-19, the Enrichment Tutoring Academy offered 1 1/2-hour after-school sessions in its Vernon classroom, adding up to 25 hours of free tutoring. It has transitioned to online tutoring and found that two 50-minute sessions, one for English, one for math, with a 10-minute break, work best for its students.
Locations served: Cities in southeast Los Angeles County, including Bell, Bell Gardens, Bellflower, Cerritos, Commerce, Compton, Cudahy, Downey, Huntington Park, La Mirada, Lynwood, Maywood, Montebello, Norwalk, Paramount, Pico Rivera, Santa Fe Springs, South Gate, Vernon and Whittier
Ages: Kindergarten through high school
Subjects: English and math
Contact: Register; donate

School on Wheels
About: Founded in 1993, School on Wheels volunteers provide one-on-one weekly tutoring services and mentorship to students experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles. During the pandemic, the organization has been matching each student with their own tutor, as well as offering backpacks, school supplies and technology. Homeless children are nine times more likely to repeat a grade and four times more likely to drop out of school.
Location: Los Angeles, Ventura, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, Orange and Riverside counties
Age: Kindergarten to 12th grade
Contact: Register; volunteer (temporarily not training new tutors, but people can sign up for updates or start a virtual supply drive); donate

StudySmart Youth Services
About: Started by Irvine high school students, StudySmart is a fusion of the organizations Math at the Library, started by Alex Yan and Arvin Ding; Girls Empowering Girls, started by Annette Yuan; and Code Champion, started by Arvin and Cindy Ding. Fall 2020 math sessions are held every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 4 to 5 p.m. Pacific time. English-language students are paired with tutors. Coding sessions take place on Saturdays in five-week sessions. The next session starts Oct. 18.
Subjects and age: Math (grades K-8); English as second language (all ages); coding (recommended grades 5 and 6)
Contact: Register or volunteer

Tutor Together
About: Started by Emme Shaffer, a high school senior at the Buckley School in Sherman Oaks, Tutor Together offers one-hour one-on-one tutoring sessions with high school students through Zoom. Weekdays 3:30 to 8:30 p.m., and weekends 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Age: Kindergarten to 8th grade
Subjects: Language and math
Contact: Register

About: Started by Aly Murray and Katie Sgarro in 2016, Upchieve provides free tutoring-on-demand 24/7 to low-income students whose families cannot afford a private tutor or admissions consultant. The average wait time for a tutor is under 5 minutes, and most are college students or young professionals who have prior tutoring experience and have passed certification quizzes in the topics requested.
Age: 13 and over
Subjects: Math (pre-algebra through calculus), science (biology, chemistry, physics and environmental science), and college counseling
Contact: Register; volunteer; donate

Wave Learning Festival
About: The Wave Learning Festival is a college-led, free educational platform that provides tutoring and over 300 live classes. Volunteers include over 400 college and high school students, and they’ve been able to reach students in 47 states and 59 countries since they started in May.
Age: Sixth to eighth grade
Subjects: English and math tutoring, plus unique classes
Contact: Register; volunteer; donate

These services are expected to be available soon:

Communities in Schools of Los Angeles
About: Communities in Schools of Los Angeles is a dropout prevention organization that supports students in Los Angeles’ public schools. In the last school year, 99% of its case-managed high school seniors graduated on time, and 97% said they felt supported during school closures. The nonprofit is planning to launch its first virtual tutoring program with volunteer teachers, private tutors and college students
Contact: Donate

About: Though the name is a nod to its beginnings, founded during the COVID-19 pandemic, its tagline is “We’ve got you COV-ered.” The virtual tutors are high school and college students, and they provide one- to two hour Zoom sessions per week.
Age: Kindergarten to 12th grade
Subjects: Biology, chemistry, college essay writing, computer science, economics, English/grammar, math, physics and statistics
Contact: Register (currently accepting waitlist)

Front Lines Tutoring
About: Founded by Mackenzie Lowenstein and led by fellow UCLA students and recent graduates, Front Lines Tutoring offers free 50-minute virtual tutoring with tutors who are college students from UCLA, Carnegie Mellon, Yale and elsewhere.
Limited to: Kids of healthcare professionals.
Subjects: Chemistry, biology, English, history, algebra, geometry, pre-calculus, calculus, Spanish, college prep and more
Age: Kindergarten to 12th grade
Contact: Register (currently accepting waitlist); volunteer; donate

Young Leaders of Orange County
About: Started in 2011 by Helen Youn and her then-teenage daughter, Young Leaders of Orange County provides tutoring for low-income elementary and middle school students in Buena Park, La Palma, Fullerton, Stanton, La Mirada and Anaheim. During the pandemic, it’s been uploading YouTube lessons. Their first Zoom tutoring session starts Oct. 17, and they are planning more sessions for the future.
Age: Kindergarten to eighth grade
Subjects: Math, reading, art, music
Contact: Register; volunteer; donate

Ada Tseng is an assistant editor on the utility journalism team at the L.A. Times. The utility journalism team publishes stories and information that help people solve problems, answer questions and make big decisions about life in and around Los Angeles. She previously led coverage of Orange County as TimesOC’s entertainment editor, and she co-hosts the Asian American pop culture history podcast Saturday School.

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