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Virtual tutoring program for refugee students amid the coronavirus pandemic

Last updated 
Photo: Hailee Pipes/IRC

Four weeks ago, the International Rescue Committee’s youth department in Silver Spring was busy welcoming new students to the after-school program, planning college campus visits for spring break and accompanying students on community service trips. Now, the youth department is adapting day-to-day operations and overall youth program activities to fit the new normal amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Despite these difficult times, the youth caseworker and youth services coordinator have responded to this crisis by calling and checking in with over 40 students and their family members to learn about their concerns, answer their questions and connect them to the necessary resources. Each student and family has had their own unique response to the crisis, but these questions and comments are on the forefront of every student’s mind:

“I miss seeing my friends every day.”

“I don’t know how to do my homework online.”

“I’m so bored, when can we go back to school?”

With the student’s feedback in mind, the youth team developed a virtual tutoring program to address their main concerns and create an opportunity for students to continue their education while getting to spend time with their friends. On Wednesday, April 8th, the youth team piloted the first virtual tutoring program with high school students who were previously involved in the Parkdale after-school program. For the first time in four weeks, students were able to reconnect with their fellow classmates and receive individualized tutoring from a trained volunteer. The youth services coordinator and youth success specialist paired students with tutors to work on their homework, practice English conversation, and practice math problems. After just one hour, the staff saw the positive impact the session was having on students emotionally, socially, and academically. The first session’s success was apparent from the laughter and excitement amongst tutors, volunteers and staff.

By Friday, ten high school students were enrolled in the pilot program. Each student completed a Zoom orientation and participated in at least one virtual tutoring session. With the feedback of students and volunteers, the youth department plans to launch the official virtual tutoring program on Tuesday, April 14th. This program will include expanded tutoring opportunities multiple times per week for elementary, middle and high school students.

With so much uncertainty surrounding the remainder of the school year, the IRC is committed to providing students in Maryland with a piece of normalcy again. The youth team will continue reaching out to students to listen to their ideas and concerns while working to evolve our programming to serve our clients and give them the chance to experience something that brings them joy and purpose, even in the midst of a pandemic.


Interested in volunteering with the IRC? Sign up here to attend a Volunteer Orientation. Email Kyle Monsees, our Volunteer Coordinator, at Kyle.Monsees [at] rescue.org (subject: Volunteering%20Inquiry) with any questions on volunteering with the IRC in Silver Spring.

Authored by Hailee Pipes