Students volunteering online during quarantine

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Screenshot taken from Girls Who Math

“It is harder to communicate ideas and information because it’s harder (especially for young children) to articulate their thoughts through a video call where it might be more difficult for them to show what they are doing,” junior Cynthia Wang said. “This can make assisting students harder but we still try our best.”

Yulee Kang, Staff Writer

While the recent pandemic can be a stressful and confusing time for many, there are also students who have taken advantage of the new found break in order to participate in or start activities that they didn’t have a chance to get to during the school year. For example, the minecraft version of TJ and Project YCRO are both new Jefferson student-run projects started over the break. There are also multiple new organizations and ideas that have begun over the break.

Girls Who Math is a free tutoring organization focused on encouraging girls’ involvement in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) related activities. Founded and directed by Cynthia Wang, a junior at Jefferson, Girls Who Math provides individual or small group tutoring classes in math or computer science. Recently, over the break, Girls Who Math has expanded their math services to all genders in order to support everyone during the COVID-19 pandemic. They have begun moving their platform virtually using Microsoft Teams to host classes.

“We are a nonprofit that aims to provide free education services for girls who have an interest in math. We provide private tutoring and larger classes as opportunities to improve on current skills or learn new ones,” founder and executive director Cynthia Wang said. “We started Girls who Math a few months before break, around December but I’ve been thinking about it and working on the website and stuff for quite a while. We have more details… on our website: https://girlswhomath.squarespace.com/.”

Along with organizations such as Girls Who Math, freshman Lynn Tao has also started Teens Helping Kids over the break, which is an entirely high-school run organization which provides free tutoring for kids nationwide. 

“This was something that I started over the break, after a few days I started feeling really bored and I wanted to do something that I thought would benefit the people around me and include my passions for STEM, especially math and science. I know that a lot of students are probably bored right now so I felt that having something to do would probably make them feel a lot better,” founder Lynn Tao said. 

Teens Helping Kids began as an effort centered in Fairfax County, but through the use of technology has been able to spread across the country, reaching states as far away as Texas.

Online learning provides new opportunities to connect with others and try new activities that many of us might not have found time for or been able to balance alongside school. There are other ways to volunteer as well though. Freshman Lyat Melese has been dedicating time to help elementary students to read.

“I started almost a week after break, I saw a post on Facebook about a volunteering opportunity with a group called BranchOut! I thought it was cool that they were connecting tutors with people who wanted to be tutored and I decided to join,” Melese said. 

BranchOut! connects fellow students with each other. In Melese’s case, she mostly works with kindergarten students online to help them read.

“Each tutor contacts their tutee to see the best way to do this in terms of scheduling and online platforms. I mainly use Zoom to meet up with my tutee three times a week,” Melese said. “Kindergarteners are fun and easy to talk to. They can be funny and usually relate concepts in interesting ways.” 

Although Lyat has had previous experience in volunteering with a local animal shelter and Red Cross, anyone can take this time to start activities they’ve been meaning to take part in, or find something new that they find interesting.

“I had a lot of time on my hands so decided that by tutoring I could keep myself occupied and also help somebody at the same time,” Melese said. “I like the challenge of coming up with a way of teaching  because I can be really creative with how to do that.