How A Sunnyvale Teen Launched Free Virtual Tutoring to Close Academic Gaps

28 AUG 2020

In a show of the Power of Mentorship Amidst COVID-19, US High School Student Andy has launched a Free Virtual Tutoring for Elementary and Middle School Students in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Homestead High School rising junior and aspiring pediatrician, Andy Lau, is making a significant impact on young people, with the launch of the Teens Rising Initiative (TRI) - a series of free tutoring classes delivered by volunteering high schoolers, to guide elementary and middle school students through disrupted learning amidst COVID-19.

“I want to have the impact and mentorship I wish I had when I was young,” he said.

After realising a need to improve his grades while in middle school, Andy was fortunate to connect with teachers who helped him to not only lift his academic performance, but enjoy the class. “This turning point made me realize how important the teacher is to your overall educational experience. That is why I started TRI, to provide fun, relatable teachers for young students.”

“During the pandemic, I felt that younger students might struggle with online learning. The idea came from applying my passion for working with kids. With TRI, we are making online learning fun and engaging, which some students may not have had before,” he said.

High schoolers can gain a sense of purpose too, through volunteering younger students - something Andy has done through coaching and umpiring the Sunnyvale Little League while also tutoring at the Academic Center at Homestead High School, where he helps students with subjects including: Math, Science, English, Spanish, and History. Additionally, Andy is a unit leader of Bay Reach which helped coordinate the delivery of around 100 meals to emergency rooms.

“My hope is that while we face disruptions that come with the COVID-19 pandemic, our class attendees have an amazing mentoring experience with our volunteers. I think it’s easier for a student to understand and listen to the advice of older kids. The mentoring aspect of volunteering is the major impact I hope that TRI will provide.”

With the help of mentors and tutors from Crimson Education who guide Andy through his capstone projects, the virtual classes have served over 84 students so far. He aims to expand the initiative beyond the Bay Area in the months ahead.

It was the transformative power of playing football as an “extremely nervous, anxious, and in general scared” team member and growing in confidence through the experience of working as a team with others, that gave Andy the skills to launch an ambitious initiative. “Football taught me about being hardworking and understanding where people come from. The social and leadership aspects of playing football helped me work through and coordinate the difficult task of founding TRI.”

Andy’s goal once graduating high school is to specialise in children’s health. “I love to play a mentor role and help others whenever I can whether it be through sports or academics. I know from my childhood that not everybody has the best experience when they're young and with a profession like a pediatrician, I feel I can make a difference in so many children’s lives.”

TRI by the Numbers

Since launching in May in 2020,

  • Tutors are on average aged 16 and range from 14-17-years old
  • Tutors and students reside within the Bay Area and attend schools including:
    • Fremont High School
    • Homestead High School
    • Lynbrook High School
    • Monta Vista High School
    • Cupertino High School
    • Cupertino Middle School
    • Sunnyvale Middle School
    • West Valley Elementary School
    • Nimitz Elementary School
  • To date, 84 students have registered for classes
  • To date, 24 volunteer teachers from Fremont Union High School District (FUHSD) are involved in the initiative
  • 19 classes have been created so far, with 86 class sessions delivered

For more information on TRI, check out their mission here.

There are also plenty of ways you can get involved in TRI. To apply to be a volunteer visit here, and to see their classes and register as a student, check out our classes page here. Andy also has an upcoming webinar available for free to any interested student you can check out here.

Has this given you any great ECL ideas?

The best extracurricular activities for college applicants are those like Andy’s TRI, creatively transforming real interests and passions into community-transforming activities and projects.

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