Teens Offering Free Tutoring for CPS Students

E-learning weary parents with kids in Chicago Public Schools need to look no farther for help than an amazing high school student who has rounded up a growing number of his peers to tutor them.

“I knew that I wanted to help,” says Rem Johannknect, a sophomore at Walter Payton College Prep who founded Connect Chicago.

The effort started when he thought about his grandmother, who lives in senior housing, and they began making calls to shut-ins. He wanted to alleviate the social isolation people might feel. Two weeks ago, after seeing people struggling with e-learning and the different platforms CPS is using, the team he assembled quickly added free remote tutoring via Zoom, FaceTime or over the phone 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.

Connect Chicago now has more than 150 volunteers, all of them high school students. Joining him on the exec board is Lucy Gold, co-founder, Hannah Bartels, logistics coordinator, and Savi Smith, social media coordinator.

“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. Parents of kids in K-12 can sign up for 1 1/2 hours of tutoring, in 30-minute sessions, each week. A volunteer is then matched with the students’ needs and availability. All contact is initiated through the parent, who helps Connect Chicago understand how best to support their child, he says. Sessions are recorded and parents are encouraged to stay in the room during tutoring if possible.

Sign-up is currently in English and Spanish, but Johannknect expects to offer it in Mandarin and Cantonese soon. It is also applying for nonprofit status.

Johannknect, who is involved in service clubs at school, says he has big goals, including organizing political campaigns.

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This article also appeared in Chicago Parent’s June 2020 magazine. Read the rest of the issue here.

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