by Kari Henquinet, Pavlis Honors College, Social Sciences
When the COVID-19 pandemic began this spring, it rapidly affected every facet of life, including the lives of K-12 students and families across the country when schools began closing. Schools changed gears to provide virtual and remote education almost overnight, a major challenge for teachers, students and parents alike. At the same time as universities closed, Michigan Tech students also found themselves stuck at home with plenty of their own on-line class work, but still wondering how they could help the community. As Tech students, faculty, and alumni brainstormed and connected with local educators for advice, Tech Tutors — a free, virtual tutoring program for K-12 students — was born.
Connecting on Zoom, Elise Cheney-Makens (alum and Community Engagement Coordinator for the Pavlis Honors College), Lydia Savatsky (undergraduate), and Charles Fugate (alum) worked together to quickly roll out the Tech Tutors program in a matter of weeks. By early May, the program was up and running.
Tech Tutors allows Michigan Tech students to volunteer while staying home to keep their families, friends, and communities safe. Volunteer tutors and K-12 students meet virtually through programs like Zoom. Participants range in age from first grade up through high school, and tutors help their students with everything from solving basic math problems to learning the principles of acids and bases by dipping oranges in baking soda or diving into the complex scientific and social implications of the pandemic. Currently, participating students come from throughout the Western UP, and tutors are able to work with any students and families interested in tutoring.
The benefits of Tech Tutors extend far beyond helping with subjects like English, science, and math. While completing schoolwork and traditional learning are essential parts of the program, equally important is tutors mentoring and building connections with their students. At a time when many people — K-12 students, families, and college students alike — have had their normal routines and lives interrupted, building connections with new people, supporting one another, and learning from new perspectives is more valuable than ever before.
Created by students, faculty, staff, and alumni in the Pavlis Honors College, the Tech Tutors program will begin operating this fall under the Center for Educational Outreach at Michigan Tech and the program will continue to help K-12 students — and provide opportunities for Michigan Tech students to give back — as we navigate what school and life look like during the ever-changing COVID-19 world.