They’re helping students and parents during this incredibly tricky time.

By Maggie Seaver
August 05, 2020
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What do you do with your college smarts and a lot of extra time during the summer of coronavirus? If you’re Madeleine Zheng, Angela Sun, and Mae Zhang, you start a completely free, remote tutoring service for middle school and high school students.

Combining their college-level wits with their desire to help out during the current health crisis, these three young women, all former students of University High School in Tucson, Ariz., started COV-Tutors to offer free tutoring sessions via Zoom.

“We understand that many families are going through a tremendous amount of hardship at this time, and although among numerous other things, many are worried about what education will look like for their children in the near future,” reads a post on the COV-Tutors Facebook page. “In order to support families during this pandemic and alleviate some of the worry surrounding your child’s education, a handful of college students, many of whom are Tucson locals, have formed a tutoring group for middle and high school students that is entirely free of charge.”

They and several other volunteer tutors meet with young students one-on-one over Zoom several times a week to help with a variety of schoolwork: working through tricky homework assignments, crafting college essays, or going over remote lessons and lectures. Tutoring sessions are one to two hours several times a week, covering a wide range of subjects and grade levels, from basic math to AP computer science. Thanks to Zheng, Sun, and Zhang, middle school and high school kids are getting the (virtual) person-to-person attention they need to boost focus, grades, confidence, and understanding of the curriculum.

COV-Tutors doesn’t only offer students an incredible helping hand with schoolwork; it provides an invaluable resource for parents, many of whom are working full time from home with tighter budgets than usual. As much as they’d love to help their kids handle homework and remote lessons, it’s often impossible to find the time, even during the summer. This stress is of course made even worse by all the uncertainty surrounding back-to-school plans for the 2020-2021 school year, and the growing number of remote lessons and assignments occurring mid-summer.

“It takes that burden away from the parent, especially because they have to work,” Zheng, who’s currently studying at Arizona State University, told KOLD 13 News. “And right now [is] kind of a financially stressful time as well.” 

“It really made us realize how much parents need something like this,” adds Angela Sun, a student at the University of Pennsylvania. 

Only five students were scheduled for tutoring when they first launched in July. But starting the very next day, sign-ups doubled, Sun said—and it’s only kept growing over the last month as parents and kids (and eventually local media outlets) spread the word. Now, apparently, COV-Tutors services are in such high demand that spots are booked solid and registration is temporarily on hiatus—a good problem to have in some ways. Zhang, a student at Carnegie Mellon University, says they’re working to expand availability and get ready for a wave of registration before autumn hits. They’ve created a waiting list in the meantime and encourage anyone who’s interested to email them at covidtutors2020@gmail.com for more details.