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College students offer support for K-12 students in time of crisis

Undergraduate-led online tutoring program ‘CovEd’ now has thousands enrolled

By
Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Some University students are taking time out of their own remote education to help younger students as they adjust to learning outside the school building during a pandemic. 

One tutoring program, “CovEd,” was created by undergraduates at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in an effort to bridge the achievement gap between students of different socioeconomic backgrounds during this time of crisis. 

The program has attracted so many volunteers that not all have yet been matched with tutees. It currently has over 1,800 mentors, including some University students, and 1,100 K-12 tutees enrolled.

After being told she would have to vacate campus, Evelyn Wong, the program’s founder and a junior at Harvard, began to consider the ways younger students would be affected by the pandemic. So, Wong began to look for a way to support them academically. 

Wong and other students began to send virtual forms to college students, asking if they were interested in contributing. 

“It started to get really big, really fast,” said Dheekshita Kumar, a senior at MIT and CovEd’s web development head. 

The program’s leaders began to create and recruit committees focused on publicity, outreach, resource management and web development. “Because we were organized, we were able to accomplish a lot,” Kumar said.

Referring to the difference in educational access for students based on their backgrounds, Wong said it felt like it was “not an issue that just started with the pandemic, but it’s definitely been exacerbated by these school shutdowns that are happening.” 

“We started off addressing this smaller need,” Kumar said. “We didn’t realize that this need is even wider than we originally thought.”

Now, CovEd has garnered interest from college students across the country, including at Brown. 

Jack Ostrovsky ’23 joined the program and has been tutoring a fourth grader in reading and writing. “I think it’s a really good way to stay involved when daily life is hindered,” he said.

Teddy Daniel ’22 got involved with CovEd through his Greek organization, Alpha Delta Phi Society, and now tutors an eleventh grader. In addition to helping his student with AP classes, Daniel, a pre-med student, can also provide his mentee with professional advice as she wants to become a doctor. When applying for CovEd, tutors include background information to be matched with a student with compatible interests and needs.

Leo McMahon ’23, who tutors an eighth grader twice a week, encourages more students to get involved. “There’s definitely a lot of demand (for) this, and I think Brown students should be pretty well-equipped,” he said.

Now, “we have this network of students, not only from Harvard or MIT, but also from different universities across the U.S.,” Wong said. 

The program’s outreach team has been contacting technology companies and alums from mentors’ universities, working to acquire resources and support for tutees who need it. “Outreach has been really, really good, but the issue is not getting the news out, it’s about getting the news to the right places,” Kumar said. 

While no official decision has yet been made, Wong and Kumar say they expect to stop pairing mentors with students at the end of the school year. But they hope that students and mentors will make the effort to continue their connections even after school ends.

“I think what distinguishes us from other platforms is that it’s not just academic tutoring for students,” Wong said. “I think it carries a deeper sense of making this community where mentors and mentees can form connections and providing that sense of normalcy for students who can’t be in school, or might not have those connections otherwise.”

“I definitely loved that I was able to meet new people who are now friends during a time of quarantine,” Kumar said. “I’ve literally met more people in the past three months than I have in, like, the past three years at MIT.”

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that a student began tutoring through the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity. In fact, the tutoring was facilitated by the co-ed Greek organization Alpha Delta Phi Society. The Herald regrets the error.

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