This winter, a cohort of 44 virtual tutors joined the IRC to expand digital learning opportunities. These tutors are now partnered with IRC program participants, meeting weekly for tutoring sessions. In partnership with the IRC's new digital equity initiative and the students, tutors help empower individuals to continue their education, access services and community resources, pursue economic opportunities, engage with healthcare providers, and participate fully in in their new communities.
On a weekly basis, tutors meet with their students - focusing on understanding and navigating different digital devices and interactions. They work in the preferred language of the student, using their digital knowledge as well as their language skills to ensure their students are best set-up to learn. To kick off each session, tutors ask students what they want to focus on for the hour, and tailor the session to the students need. Although some students would prefer to meet in-person, the pairs have continued to practice online and celebrate progress made remotely.
This program is one piece of the IRC in Seattle's efforts to increase digital equity, as it's key to unlocking opportunities for Washington’s newcomers. The 44 virtual tutors joined on with the initiative, knowing that digital literacy is universally important, and recognizing that the use of technology has only increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic."COVID-19 makes everyone's life difficult", says one tutor, acknowledging the cascading impacts of COVID-19 on everyone - tutors included. Cing joined as a tutor because of her interest in gaining experience and "assisting refugees/immigrants who need help like me when they first came to the US".
Each week, tutors see and celebreate progress as their partners develop confidence with computer and smartphone applications, downloading programs, and communicating through Zoom. Student voice is also very important to tutors - who make sure to set the pace at one students are comfortable with. "Online learning is not always easy or convenient ot learn new things, especially for beginners" notes Cing.
Their tutoring sessions, however, do come with occasional challenges. "My students and I often have challenges with online learnings such as Zoom sharing, internet problems, and different technology systems. We try our best to make them work, and hope to see in person someday". Despite the occasional hiccup, Cing and the other tutors find joy when students learn new things - plus, Cing says "I get more confident and enjoy with the program!"
The ability to share knowledge, interact and connect with new people, and share skills are some of the reasons the tutors enjoy their work. "Every individual has a story, and the way they transform from their stories to the new individual that they are now with what we teach them is amazing!"