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Campus & Community

Tutoring Group Wins Zipcar’s Students With Drive Challenge

Peer to Peer Will Expand Offerings to Include In-Person Teaching, Field Trips, Cultural Exchanges

By Karen Shih ’09

student in Maryland sweatshirt watches girl with basketball

Sahar Afnan '24, a psychology and biological sciences major, visits a local refugee family as part of Peer to Peer's tutoring program. Since 2017, the organization has taught more than 300 students in Prince George's and Montgomery counties.

Video and still by Peer to Peer

Terp tutors will soon be able to zoom to local schools to teach refugee students in person, rather than being limited to online Zoom sessions, after winning the Zipcar Students with Drive Challenge.

This month, the University of Maryland’s Peer to Peer organization was awarded a $5,000 grant and $2,000 in credit from the car-sharing company, while UMD earned a $5,000 general scholarship donation from Zipcar.

“I’m so overjoyed and grateful and feel so optimistic for the future,” said biological sciences and philosophy major Lani Tran ’24, the incoming president of Peer to Peer, which provides one-on-one homework help and internship and job search assistance to resettled families from nearly a dozen countries in crisis, including Afghanistan, Eritrea and Syria.

Founded in 2017 at UMD, the student group initially offered in-person tutoring, then moved online due to the pandemic. Through a partnership with the International Rescue Committee, about 40 UMD volunteers teach more than 50 middle and high school students in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties after school and on weekends.

The new grant money and credit will offset the cost of tutors’ travel to schools and homes, enhancing their ability to mentor, form connections with families, support more cultural exchange opportunities like potlucks and dance parties, and make it possible for Peer to Peer to offer field trips, including to the UMD campus.

“It’s a two-way street,” said treasurer Sara Dawood ’23, a biological sciences major. UMD students get to learn about new cultures, while the refugee families—more than 300 so far—learn how to better integrate into their communities and get resources to succeed at school and work.

To win the contest, Peer to Peer produced a video with the help of business major Jonathan Rosemond ’25, a friend of a friend, who filmed and edited the project. Then, throughout March, they rallied friends to garner video views and votes, two key components of the judging process.

“We’re not the biggest organization at UMD, but our mission speaks to a lot of people here,” said Tran. “We had the help of professors who showed the voting link in lecture slides, our members who campaigned and shared the video, and Jonathan, who did the video at such a reduced rate. We’re so thankful for all of them.”

For Tran, the daughter of Vietnamese refugees, and Dawood, the daughter of Pakistani immigrants, Peer to Peer’s mission is personal. They grew up with tales of their parents’ struggles in their early days in the United States—Dawood’s mother recalled the isolation of arriving in high school, unable to make friends—which drives their passion for creating a robust support system for their students and their families.

“Beyond tutoring them, a lot of times I try to be their friend and provide emotional support and instill confidence,” said Dawood. “I just want to give back, make a positive impact on my community and make the world a better place.”

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Marketing and Communications for the University of Maryland community on weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.