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A Teaching Moment Amid the Pandemic

Terps’ Free K–12 Tutoring Service Gets High Marks From Parents, Kids

By Annie Krakower

Illustration of a boy and a girl receiving virtual tutoring

Illustration by iStock

Bioengineering student Angela Sun ’23 founded the Every Child Project, an online tutoring service that provides free sessions to K–12 students.

Whether feisty first-graders playing a numbers-matching game or still-in-bed seniors discussing “Hamlet’s” themes, even students who sailed in the pre-pandemic classroom may have flailed in the Zoom room.

“Schools were doing check-ins, but not all classes were having face-to-face or one-on-one opportunities,” said Montgomery County parent Christy Braddock, whose daughter, Rose, is a rising high school junior. “My daughter is a very good student; she just felt she was falling short in (math and Spanish).”

Now the Braddocks are one of dozens of families finding support through the Every Child Project, a new online tutoring service started by a Terp. Angela Sun ’23 sought to help K–12 students navigate their new web-based worlds—and provide relief to suddenly homeschooling parents— by recruiting fellow tutors to offer Zoom sessions on any subject free of charge, an effort that’s continued into the summer.

“I was seeing great initiatives in the community and nation, targeted toward helping everyone get through a tough time,” said Sun, a bioengineering major. “I thought, ‘How can I help my community in the best way possible?’”

The Rockville, Md., native initially posted on a Montgomery County message board in mid-April and planned to tackle the tutoring solo, but friends soon convinced her to expand the initiative. After spreading the word further through email and social media, the service secured more than 40 tutors, mostly fellow UMD students, and nearly 60 tutees.

Interested students can sign up online for one-on-one sessions, which typically last 30 minutes to an hour, drop in for office hours or post homework or concept questions in a community forum. While Sun and her peers prioritize offering registration to young learners with frontline health care workers in their families, the service is open to any K–12 student.

“My daughter’s very social, so it helped to have someone outside her family to just chat with,” Braddock said. “She’s at an age where she’s going to learn better from a young adult than from her parents. We could do what we could, but we’re still not a peer or a cool person like Angela.”

Tutors set their own schedules, creating what Sun calls a “self-sustaining” system that helped them balance their workloads as they logged in to their own online classes during the academic year. Now, with many tutors continuing their services over the summer, they have more time to experiment with new hands-on exercises, she said.

That includes rolling out enrichment activities through STEAM Powered, a sister program to the Every Child Project that tutor Hiya Sawhney ’22 is leading. She’s working to offer programs and videos for summer and beyond to boost student engagement—with mentors walking through everything from science experiments to arts and crafts to geometry demonstrations—in lieu of in-person camps and classes.

“Social distancing has been especially hard on families,” said Sawhney, also a bioengineering major. “Parents aren’t used to having kids at home 24/7. This is a resource for them as much as it is for students.”

Those parents have responded positively, inspiring Sun to look into ways to spread the service further and continue helping families—even after the pandemic.

“Now we’re trying to move toward something that will make a bigger long-term impact,” Sun said. “The goal going forward is to expand to as many people as possible while maintaining the quality of tutoring.”

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