PORTLAND, Oreg. (KOIN) — Two young women saw a problem and found a solution by creating a free online tutoring platform for elementary school students during the pandemic.
Best friends Sarah Shapiro and Skye Loventhal are the founders of The COVID NineTEEN Project. The project, which started in California in May 2020, has expanded to Oregon, Washington, and across the world.
“The COVID NineTEEN Project is an international team lead organization… we offer free daily activities and one-on-one tutoring online for students,” Shapiro said that as high school students and children of educators, the two saw firsthand the challenges of virtual learning and wanted to help.
“We saw how educational inequities were being exacerbated by the pandemic, both in the virtual classrooms of our mother’s and in our own, and so we realized that we needed to create something to help fill that gap,” Shapiro added. “[The project] was sort of a dual purpose, a way for us to get involved in our community, but also to provide a service for the kids who need it.”
From learning yoga to studying math in Korean, The COVID NineTEEN Project is divided into two sectors: tutoring and daily activities. Currently, the teen-led project hosts 50+ activities per week and offers tutoring in 33 different languages.
“We host journaling, intro to different languages, Greek mythology, Zumba class,” Loventhal said the goal is to help kids stay motivated and active during the pandemic.
Loventhal said the project started out small with several volunteers– mostly from their high school in Southern California— but as the project quickly expanded, so did the team. Almost a year later, they’ve recruited more than 275 teen mentors.
“We now have volunteers from all over the United States as well as a good amount from Canada… and in some other countries as well,” Loventhal said.
The teens say their project now serves more than 3,500 elementary-age students from 14-different countries, including Argentina and India.
“The retention rates of students is incredible because the kids they’ve connected with us and tell me every day that they’re so excited to be able to wake up and take another class like this, this is what keeps kids going,” Shaprio added.
The COVID NineTEEN Project is offering a free summer camp for kids. For more information, visit covidnineteenproject.com.