Jing He ’21, shares her desire to help students lacking “quality education,” by creating a program that provides free online tutoring classes. 

This summer 25 students were accepted in the CSGC grants program. These grants are funded due to the generous support of the Cost, Earle/Mendillo and Workman families, who established endowment funds to support the community and public service endeavors of future generations of Deerfield students. For more information on these grants please visit: https://deerfield.edu/csgc/grants.

As I am typing this, I have just finished an initial meeting with one of our new students, Isabella. I learned about her current situation at school, the subjects she needed help with, and her learning style. Like many other students I have met, her mother expressed frustration over Isabella’s schooling situation – one synchronous class once a week with little time for the teacher to answer questions. Her mother told me that Isabella has been completing homework assignments on her own and turning it in on Google Classroom. After sending in the document, Isabella receives a green check next to her name. Then, the class moves on.

Ellia and I began Outreach and Prep over the frustration of the fact that many students during the pandemic lacked access to quality education. The COVID-19 Crisis has unveiled, if not worsened, a myriad of deep-rooted issues in the United States, from the shortage of masks and medical supplies to the increasing unemployment rates to the instances of xenophobia and racism across the country. One thing for sure is that the pandemic affected people differently, depending on their socioeconomic status. In particular, the education received by communities across the nation varied tremendously.

Growing up in New York, I witnessed stark differences in the boroughs. My parents were always on the lookout for neighborhoods with the best elementary and middle schools. Thus, my family and I moved around and lived in two separate parts of Queens so that I could receive the best education possible. At that time, I did not notice my privilege in having the choice of deciding which schools to attend. I was blessed with a family that cared deeply about my education and was willing to make tremendous sacrifices. As a result, I was raised to prioritize my education.

I do, however, recognize my fortunate situation. Throughout my interactions with those around me – during after school activities, programs, my old swim team, and even within my school – I noticed the differences between students’ perception of education and what it meant. While some struggled with state-level reading comprehension and math or viewed schools as optional, others participated in private tutoring classes hoping to get ahead.

To make matters worse, schools during the pandemic are conducting classes very differently. As the New York Times published in their article, “[r]acial and socioeconomic achievement gaps will most likely widen because of disparities in access to computers, home internet connections and direct instruction from teachers.”

Outreach and Prep hopes to step in to contribute something to help patch the widening gap between students across the nation. We began within the Deerfield community, asking students if they would be willing to tutor or mentor, and were touched by the number of students who wanted to help out. Our tutoring operation consisted of offering free, one-on-one, and group tutoring sessions to students in 5th to 8th grade, providing individualized tutoring for anyone that needs us. On the other hand, our mentoring program began with blogs and IGTV videos to talk about our personal experiences with the admissions cycle and sharing our experiences at prep schools.

A meeting with Outreach and Prep tutors.
Outreach and Prep Board Meeting

With the support of the Earle/Mendillo Grant, Ellia and I are able to continue and expand this project into the summer, helping students impacted by COVID-19 and beyond. The Grant helped us cover materials and resources for tutors and schooling supplies for students affected by the pandemic. Since April, we have held over 300 tutoring sessions and expanded to a team of over 50 amazing tutors and mentors. Currently, my team and I are in the process of judging a writing contest and a creative contest – both intended to encourage the exploration of our students’ interests in the summer. I look forward to sharing the results and updates in my next post!

Outreach and Prep student, Sophie Cho with her summer reading book.

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