As classrooms across the United States pivot to online learning amid the coronavirus pandemic, the new remote learning system is taking more of a toll on certain students than others, particularly those who rely on tutors to stay on track with their studies.
To combat this setback, Justin Cao, a 16-year-old Bronx High School of Science student, and his friends Jingzhe Weng and Steven Tung founded the nonprofit L.E.A.F., which stands for “Love for learning, Educating others, Assisting the community and Finding your passion.”
The program provides free, remote tutoring in multiple academic subject areas and volunteer hours for students in New York City and beyond.
Cao told In The Know that he and his friends noticed that many of their fellow high school students were struggling to cope with the limitations of online schooling, so they took matters into their own hands to help students better themselves and their education amid these unprecedented times.
Cao, who emigrated with his family from China to the U.S. at the age of 6, shared that growing up, he struggled with learning due to the language barrier and relied on free tutoring to keep up with his schoolwork.
This hurdle made him want to give back to his community and prevent other students who may lack access to such resources from falling behind.
“Helping [other students] resonates with me because I just don’t want them to go through what I had to go through,” he explained. “We want to make accessibility one of our top priorities.”
“A lot of people don’t understand the things the teachers are teaching them, and just need someone to talk to them one-on-one,” he added.
Like L.E.A.F., Verizon is expanding its education initiatives to help students gain the skills they need to thrive in today’s rapidly changing world through their responsible business plan, Citizen Verizon. The main objective of this initiative is to “move the world forward for good” by expanding digital access and resources, protecting the climate, and ensuring people have the skills needed for jobs of the future.
The company, which has also realized there are limitations to remote learning, is working to provide resources for teachers and students, including specialized courses for educators to help them transition to remote learning. It will also provide 10 million youths the digital training necessary to thrive in a modern economy.
“Verizon is doing the same thing as L.E.A.F. because accessibility is a limiting factor in education,” Cao said of the program. “We want to make accessibility our prime factor, just like Verizon.”
“Verizon is expanding education initiatives for students so that they can thrive in a changing world, ” he added. “Verizon and I realize that remote learning can be difficult for students and teachers, so we want to make it as easy as possible for them.”
Currently, L.E.A.F. serves over 100 students and has between 30 and 40 tutors supporting its mission, Cao estimates. Although starting the venture has been “time-consuming,” the student says the payoff has been well worth the effort.
“We just want to continue growing [and] helping more and more people in our community,” he said. “We want them to feel confident enough to pass a class saying, ‘I learned something today.'”
If you liked this article, read about students who are working to solve the internet accessibility gap in Baltimore.
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