Orlando High School Students Create Free Virtual Student Tutoring Business
Lake Highland Prep students offer a free virtual tutoring service to help kids here and across the country.
While some students might have lamented the spring break fun they were missing, a group of friends from Lake Highland Preparatory School sat down a few months ago to discuss how they could make a positive difference during the COVID-19 crisis.
“We brainstormed ideas and a tutoring service was the ideal option,” says 11th-grader Arnav Barpujari. Their free service, Orlando Student Tutoring, is available through virtual platforms of the parents’ or students’ choice. They began with 24 volunteers, only one of whom attended a different school, and they recruited Lake Highland robotics and engineering teacher Glynn Dettman as their adviser.
Since the program launched in early April, more than 100 students have been helped in Florida, California and Pennsylvania. Four additional tutors from Lake Highland have offered their services. The students have also launched a Raleigh, NC, branch and hope to continue expanding, Barpujari says.
After starting their website, OrlandoStudentTutoring.com, and a Facebook page, the students began reaching out to local elementary and middle schools. Lake Highland 11th-grader Nicole Ward promoted the service to AdventHealth. “I want to help front-line workers—who already have so much on their plate—by helping their kids, whether it’s tutoring or just being someone who these kids can talk to and run ideas by.”
Assigned tutors work directly with families on a multitude of subjects, including art.
Barpujari is helping three students between fourth and ninth grades with math, English and homework assignments. Ward is working with six students ranging from second through ninth grades in subjects including SAT/PSAT prep, math and English/reading comprehension. Her youngest student, Leighton, is in second grade at Dommerich Elementary School, where the girl’s mother is a fourth-grade teacher.
“My daughter has had trouble knowing that she can complete the work independently. The students that I teach struggle with not having the teacher to push them and guide them with the lessons,” Leighton’s mom, Kelly Wilhite-Loughran, says. But Ward says her very first meeting with Leighton resulted in a breakthrough.
Ward says she noticed the reading material didn’t pique the girl’s interest. “So I asked Leighton what types of books she read, and it turns out she likes nonfiction and biographies,” genres Ward also appreciates. “We went on Amazon and picked out a book on Jane Goodall and started reading articles on her. It was super fun, and I think Leighton was more enthusiastic because she was reading about something that she chose.”
Student tutors had to manage their time carefully while tending to their own end-of-year academic demands. “The way I’ve organized my schedule is I don’t take sessions till after 3 p.m. From the morning till 3 p.m., I try to get all my work done,” Barpujari says. Ward says she worked with parents to fit lessons between her own Zoom classes as she dealt with AP exams.
Dettman says the tutors are high-performing students who are “responsible, hardworking and considerate of others.” And the experience benefits all involved.
“The younger students look up to the older students as an example to follow, someone they can feel comfortable asking for help and advice,’’ he says. “It also helps to build leadership skills within the older students as well as an opportunity to share their knowledge and experience in a way that helps others.”