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Esther Zhang and Stuti Sharma, students in the IB program at Semiahmoo Secondary, founded an online peer tutoring and mentorship program to supplement remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
They say necessity is the mother of invention, and two Semiahmoo Secondary students have started an innovative online service to meet tutoring needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Esther Zhang and Stuti Sharma, both Grade 11 students in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, have founded the Learning Bridge, a free peer tutoring and mentorship program for Grade 4-10 students to supplement remote learning.
"We wanted tutoring to be something for everyone," said Zhang. "All students should have that access to someone they can talk to about ideas and thoughts outside of school for free."
The duo said they came up with the program at the start of spring break, in anticipation of school closures. They also wanted to help teachers by providing additional student resources outside of the digital classroom.
The volunteer-run program has nearly 40 tutors and about 60 students registered for tutoring so far. Many of the tutors are other International Baccalaureate students who enjoy tutoring other students, while also applying their Learning Bridge work toward volunteer hours required for graduation.
"All the students have been so supportive of it because they realize this is a need and they know they have the means to provide something the community needs right now," said Sharma.
The program has been very well-received, with many teachers reaching out to collaborate. The website offers one-on-one tutoring, primarily through Zoom, as well as such resources as videos, articles and games to foster learning. They are also looking into piloting a program for students in Grade 3 and under, based on demand.
Sharma said the thirst for knowledge from the students who've signed up, and the passion to share learning from the tutors, speaks to an innate need for youth to help one another.
"We're going through some really unprecedented and challenging times," she said. "I think it's natural for students and youth to collaborate because we all feel the need to do something. Being at home can often bring feelings of helplessness because you can't participate actively in the community, so I think we're all just doing our part, and it just happens to be online."
Surrey Board of Education Chairperson Laurie Larsen applauded the student efforts, saying the Learning Bridge is a welcome support as students and teachers work hard to continue effective learning in the current landscape.
"It's magnificent to see the innovation and initiative in our students," said Larsen. "Their dedication to learning and their desire to help others truly embodies the district's guiding principles of supporting the design of engaging learning environments for all students, in the classroom or online."
For more information on the Learning Bridge, visit learningbridge.wixsite.com/website.