A free tutoring service for Northern Virginia students moved its services online as Fairfax County Public Schools turned to virtual learning in March.
Growth and Inspiration through Volunteering and Education (GIVE) is a non-profit tutoring service that is run by high school students across the Fairfax County area. It was created in 2010 by four students as a way to help underprivileged students in elementary and middle school.
“We want to be able to provide anyone, regardless of their income and their background, the ability to boost their education,” Executive Team Member Esha Pathi said.
Before COVID-19 began to spread, GIVE offered in-person tutoring sessions to students in kindergarten through sixth grade at local libraries and community centers. The sessions would run every weekend and each session was broken up by school and location.
“In our transition [to online] we figured that it would be better if we organized it by grade level instead of location,” Pathi said. “This way, it would be easier to distribute the resources, since if you were a third grader, we would have all the third grade tutors in there….They would be able to collaborate and communicate a little bit more effectively.”
GIVE is using an online platform called BigBlueButton for their virtual tutoring sessions.
“It's really easy to just run in a web browser or on the phone,” Executive Team Member Arnav Wadehra said.
There are eight individual rooms per session, so eight tutoring pairs are able to work privately at a time.
“The average number that we've been getting is around five or six students,” Executive Team Member Makda Dejene said.
Over 250 virtual tutors are available to help students better understand a variety of subjects. High schoolers and some middle schoolers from any school in Fairfax County are able to apply to be tutors.
“Since we have such a variety of tutors, people are talented in any subject, like English, math, science, history and even certain languages, because we do have some students that want help to improve their English,” Pathi said.
According to Wadehra, some tutors are able to communicate with non-English speaking parents in Spanish and Arabic. Tutors are asked when they apply if they can speak a foreign language so that GIVE can see “if they can help students and families that don't know English as well.”
GIVE says the most popular subject is math and the most common grade levels are second, third and fourth.
“We're going to expand into seventh and eighth grade later this fall since things are going more steadily now,” Dejene said.
Wadehra said since their target audience is lower income students, they might not have access to technology at home to join the online sessions. To help these students, he devised a plan in conjunction with his Eagle Scout project. Wadehra is collecting old computers and fixing them up to donate to students in need of technology in the Fairfax area.
“I decided that instead of donating them to FCPS or somewhere where they already have a bunch of computers, I’ll actually donate them to GIVE,” Wadehra said. “We could distribute them to these families that don't have computers, and then they could partake in our online tutoring.”
With the help of volunteers, Wadehra has collected 22 computers and installed software on them to help them run faster. He said the computers allow students to take advantage of other educational opportunities online.
In addition to providing technology to students, Executive Team Member Jimmy Le is leading an outreach committee to inform local communities about GIVE. Le and his team distribute flyers to apartment complexes in lower income neighborhoods and communicate with community organizations to get the word out.
“At the end of the day, we're here for people who are underserved, people of color, people who have lower socioeconomic backgrounds who otherwise would not get these services,” Le said.
As Fairfax County Public Schools remain online for the Fall, GIVE will continue to provide online tutoring services for students. Sessions are every Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.