Esther Zhang, left, and Stuti Sharma are Grade 11 students in the IB program at Semiahmoo Secondary School. The two created the Learning Bridge, an online tutoring and mentorship program, during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Submitted photo: Stuti Sharma)

COVID-19: Surrey students create free online tutoring, mentorship program

The Learning Bridge has around 30 tutors

Two students at Semiahmoo Secondary School have created an online tutoring and mentorship program in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s now grown to 30 mentors and about 50 kids being tutored.

Stuti Sharma and Esther Zhang, Grade 11 students in the IB program said they started thinking of the idea for the Learning Bridge around the beginning of spring break.

“Esther and I were just talking about potential ways to help out the community right now since we both felt really helpless at home and this is just something that we’re both passionate about and something that we thought that everyone needed because school closures were very likely at the time,” said Stuti.

The Ministry of Education announced the suspension of in-class learning on March 17.

READ ALSO: B.C. to suspend K-12 schools indefinitely due to COVID-19, March 17, 2020

According to the website, the Learning Bridge wants to “support teachers by providing yet another resource to direct students towards as they work tirelessly to create online programs.”

Esther said the ages range between grades 4 and 10.

“We have around 30 tutors and around 50 kids, so we do have a lot of kids and a lot of tutors. All the tutors, right now, everyone has a student and it’s actually going really well, it’s going really progressively,” she said.

While most of the students involved are from Surrey, Esther said they’re trying to open it for all grades and communities.

In order to take part in the Learning Bridge, Stuti said students need to either sign up as a mentor or student.

“What we do, is we connect the mentor — we’ll go through an interview process to make sure that the mentor is well-qualified — and then we’ll connect them with a student who we think is suitable of them,” she said. “From that, it’s basically just the mentor and the student connecting at their own time.”

But the Learning Bridge also has another program for resources where people can sign up to receive resources about a topic that interests you.

“So if you don’t want one-on-one tutoring, we also have that,” said Stuti.

Esther said the goal is to have resources up for the general public “because we understand that some kids might not have that access to technology and some parents don’t want them to use Zoom or other devices as they’re afraid of recording and things like that.”

READ ALSO: Surrey parents, students navigate remote learning during COVID-19, April 3, 2020

READ ALSO: ‘Having to re-invent the way they do their work’: What learning could look like in Surrey amid COVID-19, March 28, 2020

Most of the tutoring is done through Zoom, said Esther, but “at the end of the day, it is the own house choice to choose what kind of program they want to be tutored on.”

Overall, Esther said the response to the Learning Bridge has been “super positive.”

“Everyone’s really supportive of each other, the whole team. I think it’s really rare to find a team as dedicated to what they want to do as our,” she said. “All the students and all our mentors and tutors are so amazing and they’re trying so hard and putting so much effort to kind of make it really productive. I think that’s really special.

“It’s not just me and Stuti… I mean, yes, we started learning Bridge, but at the end of the day, it’s not just us two that’s carrying the team. I couldn’t accomplish this without the 30 other people behind it, so I think it’s really amazing how dedicated our tutors and mentors are to our actual programs.”

Because it’s all volunteer work, Stuti said that all of the mentors “understand the importance of solidarity.”

“We can see that by the time and effort that they’re putting in and the initiative that they’re taking. They’ll text us and ask us what other help we need, and this is all volunteer work, so we’re super grateful for all of them.”

For more information on the Learning Bridge, or to sign up, visit learningbridge.wixsite.com/website.

READ ALSO: Surrey Schools working on a plan to provide WiFi for students in need, April 11, 2020

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