A group of teens who created an organization offering free virtual tutoring to Chicago Public School students when their schools switched to e-learning last spring due to the coronavirus is working to help bust education inequity across the city.
Connecting Chicago, which has helped more than 1,000 Chicago kids using the talents of more than 450 student volunteers, is now registering new K-12 students for the free virtual tutoring program. Through the program, students are assigned a college or high school tutor and can receive up to two free sessions of tutoring per week over Zoom or Google Meet. Families can receive tutoring in English, Mandarin or Spanish
“I knew that I wanted to help,” Rem Johannknecht, a junior at Walter Payton College Prep who founded Connecting Chicago, said when we spoke with him soon after the effort started.
He got the idea when he thought about his grandmother, who lives in senior housing, and wanted to alleviate the social isolation people might feel. After seeing people struggling with e-learning and the different platforms CPS is using, the team he assembled, including fellow junior Lucy Gold, quickly added free remote tutoring to the efforts.
“It’s been a learning experience for everyone. Everyone is in the same boat. We’re all figuring this out together,” he says, adding that the effort has been really well received and gives students and opportunity to interact with each other.
“It makes me still feel connected. For us, it’s been an opportunity to stay active,” he says. “As far as we’re limited by the screen, it’s another great way to stay engaged.”
What they’ve created is pretty simple to navigate for parents. Volunteers have been trained by the organization’s leaders and work with students and parents to determine a plan that works best for the student. All tutors are prepared to plan lessons, find enrichment materials and communicate with students’ families.
Johannknecht, who is involved in service clubs at school, says he has big goals, including organizing political campaigns. Connecting Chicago is on its way to becoming a nonprofit as well.
Families seeking tutoring or those interested in volunteering can call Connecting Chicago at (312) 772-6064 or visit connectingchicago.org.
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This article has been updated with the latest information and appeared in Chicago Parent’s June 2020 magazine. Read the rest of the issue here.