Erika Tso Sowah ‘24
Oct 7, 2022
In 2021, Mercersburg Academy partnered with the online-tutoring program Learn to Be, a non-profit organization that allows students in high school to tutor younger students in underserved communities. Learn to Be has a pay-if-you-can policy, meaning if families are able to pay for lessons they can; however, it is not a required payment, making tutoring more accessible to more students. Although the program is based in California, it has broad outreach, with students and tutors located across the US.
This partnership was established by Director of Community Engagement Emily Parsons, who reached out to Learn to Be after several students expressed interest in tutoring at the local elementary school but were restricted due to COVID limitations. “I looked around for online tutoring programs that could partner with us, and I found Learn to Be. Their platform allows us to manage our tutors through our own partner portal which really helps me keep an eye on tutors and the connections that they're making,” said Parsons. “They're dedicated to helping students who could really benefit from tutoring and could fall behind easily without extra help. They select their students and then manage the communication between the family and the student.”
Peter Rice ‘23, one of the first volunteers, said, “I started tutoring because I saw it as a fun way to give back and help others during a time when it was harder to do community service because of COVID. It also seemed fairly easy to do and it has a real impact on the students you tutor.”
Finding time for tutoring at Mercersburg can be difficult. Parsons explained, “Tutors are asked to give one hour a week to their student which can be tricky considering our schedule.” However, students have been able to navigate their way around this issue. “I first told them the times I was free then let them pick which one worked for them. We set up weekly meetings during that time and if an unexpected event ever came up during our tutoring time we rescheduled for the following week,” said Chuks Ugori ‘23.
Student volunteers also mentioned that they were able to develop several skills through tutoring. Maia Somma ‘24 said, “I tutored French primarily so that I could strengthen my own French skills as well as be a mentor to students who need extra help. I’ve definitely improved my communication skills and my ability to organize information in a cohesive way for the lessons I designed.” Ugori also commented, “I learned to teach concepts in innovative and fun ways to ensure that the kid getting tutored doesn’t get bored and shut off.”
Learn to Be is an extremely beneficial organization for both the tutor and the student, as both leave the session having gained new strengths. Tutors have the opportunity to practice their time management as well as organizational skills, while students are able to receive help on areas they struggle with, free of charge.