Posted on: September 21, 2020
By: Alan O'Neill
Posted in: Press Releases
Right now, Houston is facing some big challenges. Rain and flooding from a tropical storm. A pandemic. Employment issues. Housing issues. Remote learning. But, with all these issues, the youth of Houston have found a new way to help each other. A group of Houston high school students are offering to help tutor younger neighbors, so remote learning is easier and less frustrating. Read about the Teaching To Give project in the Houston Chronicle.
By Marcy de Luna Updated 7:00 am CDT, Monday, September 21, 2020
At age 15, Weillison Hsu has already learned the importance of volunteering. The pianist and violinist began giving his time in 2015, bringing joy to the elderly at Houston-area senior living homes with his music.
With community service ingrained in his young life, Hsu is taking on a new endeavor. He recently helped found Teaching to Give, a free online tutoring service for students in kindergarten through 8th grade.
“I’ve been volunteering since I was in the 5th grade. I am passionate about helping others,” said Hsu, a sophomore at Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.
Hsu is coming to the aid students across the city, with the help of some of his peers.
Teaching to Give’s seven-person board includes Hsu, who serves as president, along with fellow 15-year-olds Hayden Miller, Lina Wu, Amy Park, Fiona Condron, Rushil Chetty and Ashley Chu. All are enrolled at various local high schools.
Teaching to Give, which officially launched on Sept. 9, provides virtual tutoring lessons for academic subjects, along with foreign language and the arts.
Hsu said the inspiration behind the website is two-fold. “Last winter break, one of our teachers fell sick with cancer. It caused a huge learning gap as we had substitute teachers for the entire semester. Thankfully, he is now in full remission.”
Yet another barrier to learning occurred amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“When online learning started during COVID-19, we experienced an even bigger learning gap,” said Hsu. “We knew that other students from other schools were also experiencing this.”
Signing up for Teaching to Gives is simple. After filling out a brief online form, clients are matched with a tutor from a roster of 28 volunteer high school students.
“We all take advanced classes and are qualified to teach middle and elementary school students at a high level,” said Miller. “We adapt to what the clients are learning or what they want to learn.”
There is no charge for the service and, since sessions are via Zoom, both the pupils and their tutors can be located anywhere in the city.
Kevin Li, an 8th grader at T.H. Rogers School, gets help with the violin. “It is helpful that my tutor is closer in age and learned the same thing recently,” he said.
Deepshikha Arora’s son, Aditya Arora, 7, also attends T.H. Rogers School. He is tutored in math, art, piano and Spanish.
“I am excited to have something that engages my child during COVID-19,” said Deepshikha Arora. “The high schoolers listen and come to the level of the child they are teaching. He looks forward to it.”
Deepshikha Arora initially went a more traditional route, working with an adult tutor.
“We tried formal tutoring where the teachers were grownups, but Aditya was shy. With the high school students, he is at ease,” she said. “He is improving academically and it also satisfies his curiosity.”
Although website fees are Teaching to Give’s only expense, the group is open to receiving donations.
“We have been planning on finding sponsors,” said Hsu. “Right now, all the money comes out of pocket from the board members.”
Contributions also help the group go beyond tutoring, including starting a new venture called “Project Pencil” to collect supplies for the arts program at Gregory-Lincoln Education Center in Fourth Ward.
“Before, we were focused on getting our tutoring platform off the ground and ready. Now that we are on our feet with that, we are excited to incorporate our project,” said Miller.
In the future, Hsu said they’d like to host book drives as well as a fundraiser to buy drumsticks and small instruments for music programs.
“We know how mind- and eye-opening the arts can be and how many paths it can open for your future,” said Hsu. “Educational supplies are pretty expensive. We want to help with these needs.”
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