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When Parul Gupta, a junior at Foothill High School, first found out that students would be getting an extra week of spring break earlier this year, she was excited.

Then, the reality of the situation set in.

Across the nation, schools abruptly shut down in the face of the wildfire-like spread of COVID-19, and students, teachers and parents have all been feeling the impacts.

“I didn’t realize how serious this pandemic would be, so I assumed we would return to school after two weeks,” she said. “Everything changed when the district decided that we wouldn’t return to school for the remainder of the year. My 10-year-old sister had just begun art lessons, which she deeply enjoyed. I could not bear to witness her weeping and pounding, desperately wanting to return to these classes.”

Parul then realized that while COVID-19 had caused many teenagers like herself to feel stressed, younger children must be suffering more. Especially in the early days of the shutdown, teachers didn’t have much time to check in with every student, as they were working day and night to revamp curriculum to suit virtual learning. Additionally, some students didn’t feel comfortable unmuting their online meeting and speaking up, so teachers often assumed their students were doing fine.

According to Parul, a strong education is a critical part of children’s future endeavors, and she didn’t want them to feel that achieving their goals had become 10 times harder.

“I thought of creating an organization that connects passionate high schoolers with children struggling in school,” she said. “As a high schooler, I’m aware that COVID-19 has halted many extra curriculars teenagers engage in — sports, dance, volunteer work, etc. So I knew that high school students would be the best tutors, as they would already be willing to volunteer and would have gone through direct instruction of the material in the recent years. As COVID-19 has greatly harmed many people’s financial status, making these classes free helped many, and I am all about the love of community, not love of money. I find profit in helping others, not selling services for money.”

As soon as she worked out the details for the new tutoring program, named Edutine, Parul got together with other juniors at her high school and made the project official. As many students and parents provided positive feedback, she knew it would carry on in the long term. She obtained nonprofit status over the summer.

“I am proud of my daughter for her commitment to Edutine,” said Parul’s mother, Vasudha Gupta. “It is easy for any child to feel demotivated during these challenging times. Parul is a motivated child and values learning, which allowed her to empathize with kids who are stuck home all day, struggling to cope with distance learning. Teaching your children to volunteer and support a cause — especially that they are passionate about — is something they will never regret. When your child learns to helps others, it teaches them patience, kindness and resilience. Children also learn how to work with others, as they meet many different types of people. Volunteering not only provides them an opportunity to meet people of different diversity but also provide experiences that will help them to grow as they navigate their future.”

According to Parul, the tutors are thankful for the opportunity. Many of them served as volunteers at local centers and hospitals before the pandemic but are now confined in their houses. Additionally, the program helps some of them fulfill school-mandated community service hours.

“Pre-COVID, I would volunteer at the senior center near my house every Sunday,” said Parul. “It was a break from my busy schedule, but most importantly, I enjoyed meeting people who are much older than I am. I truly felt like a citizen every time I exited the doors, having served the seniors for two hours. I’ve had many deep conversations with some of the seniors, and it’s amazing to hear their stories, how we connect and what I should be aware of for my future. My story of the seniors is the perfect analogy for the current situation with education. Young children aren’t very motivated in their school classes. Tutors feel rewarded when they find their students understanding content better or even having fun in these sessions after being stressed from school.”

To date, the program has more than 45 volunteer tutors and has helped roughly 200 students. The group welcomes additional high schoolers to apply for either position. Tutors teach the subjects they are most comfortable and passionate about, and they work with the students to schedule a time that matches both of their schedules. Tutors receive volunteer hours for the time they spend on the video call with their students, and they are required to volunteer for a minimum of two hours a week. Most average about four hours.

For more information or to sign up as a tutor or a student, visit www.edutine.com.