A new LMU initiative is a win-win situation for students looking to complete their service requirement and families from low-income communities struggling with online learning. LMU School of Education faculty is working with LMU Center for Service and Action and Speak UP, an advocacy group for parents, to provide school-going students with a volunteer tutor.
The new initiative, iTutors, meets with volunteers, matches them with families, and supports them on Brightspace, before they start their general tutoring position. In most cases, children learning online are receiving instruction from their regular teacher but need additional assistance with homework and worksheets.
Recent studies have shown that the digital divide affects marginalized communities most directly and promotes the reproduction of inequality (Prescott, 2020) and that up to 100,000 Los Angeles Unified School District students lack access to the internet at home.
Over the summer, a group of 30 LMU student volunteers worked as iTutors with great success. Now, with online learning as the norm for fall at LAUSD, and for students at LMU, the iTutors initiative is scaling up and wants to place 400 LMU students with school students in need of some extra support.
“Being an iTutor was one of the best experiences I have ever had,” said Veronica Backer-Peral, who worked with a high-schooler over the summer. “No one wants to do Math in the summer, but my student was excited to learn and worked so hard.”
Volunteering is easy: any student can sign up on GivePulse, the volunteer management system, and list any subjects and grade levels they feel comfortable tutoring. That information also goes to iTutors, which works to match volunteer tutors with a child who has a need that aligns with the volunteer’s abilities.
iTutors program director, Tracy Grand, at Speak UP, attends the first meeting between learner and tutor to make sure everyone is comfortable, after which learner and tutor meet once a week for an hour on their own. “Showing up for the kids is 90 percent of the work, having a friendly face meet them where they are at is so important,” said Tracy Grand. “Families have come back to tell me that the tutor relationship has been so helpful to their kids. There is an overwhelming demand that exceeds our current capacity,” added Grand.
Speak UP, a grassroots organization of parents who want a more powerful voice in education policy, is putting out a call for more volunteer tutors. “Unless we bridge the #TechKnowledge divide, our most vulnerable students will fall even further behind.” Speak UP’s iFamily and iTutors programs are meeting these urgent education needs.
“We have built out a support structure, so students who volunteer have assistance from an LMU faculty member in the School of Education,” said Patrick Furlong, at the Center for Service and Action.
“As parents across LA struggle with online learning, I am hopeful this collaboration between School of Education, CSA and Speak Up can give our students a chance to use their own unique talents and skills to still volunteer remotely while also providing support to children throughout our community. I am grateful to Chelsea Brown, Professor Terese Aceves, and Tracy Grand at Speak UP for making all of this possible,” said Furlong.
Allen Lam, who volunteered as with iTutors said: “My experience has been great! Tracy made sure I had all the materials needed for instruction and my student has been a pleasure to teach. He’s a great listener and definitely has shown a passion for learning. The one-on-one environment allows me to get to know him better too. Talking about our week, however dull it may be due to quarantine, is always a highlight. I find that this feeling of community is something to be cherished.
“If you’re someone interested in iTutors, I’d say ‘go for it!’ The process is simple. The program allows you to instruct at whatever level you’re comfortable leading. Especially in these trying times, there are students in need of a lil’ boost in order to get their enthusiasm for education rolling, and maybe more importantly, in need of a friend.”
Link for LMU Students to volunteer: https://lmu.givepulse.com/event/197643-iTutors–Remote-Tutoring-LAUSD