In a few months, Grade 12 students Esther Zhang and Stuti Sharma have seen their free, online tutoring and mentorship program expand several provinces over.
Esther and Stuti started the Learning Bridge in March, as in-class instruction was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It started with about 30 mentors and 50 students being tutored.
It’s grown exponentially, and now includes a group in Ontario.
“At its peak, we had over 200 members, including tutors and students,” said Stuti, adding that they had a summer program too “because we realized kids won’t really get to go outside and socialize as much.”
Asked if they were surprised by the expansion to Ontario, Esther said they’d already had an executive member from there for the 2020 year, “so we were expecting a couple people but not as many as we actually had.”
Esther said she and Stuti didn’t think the program would get to be this big.
“I think the biggest part of it was reorganizing and making sure we knew what was going on when tutors were actually tutoring their students and having that organized strategy with our specific team,” she said.
As the Learning Bridge gained momentum, Stuti said it was “really interesting” to see university students getting on board, with some of those in Ontario, because it had initially just been open to high school students.
“We honestly just did it for our community, especially our school,” explained Stuti. “We opened it up to Semiahmoo students to be tutors, but then slowly, especially after the school district covered us and you did too, that’s how many people, like in Ontario, also found out about us.”
Stuti and Esther are part of the international baccalaureate (IB) program at Semiahmoo Secondary in South Surrey, where Stuti said they are back at school full-time, with a full course load.
Asked how the two would manage balancing school and the Learning Bridge, Esther said, “It’s going to be quite a year.
“It’s going to be an amazing year, but as Stuti said, with our many, many execs, the tasks have been spread out quite evenly. It’s really just up to communicating and making sure everyone’s on top of things.”
The Learning Bridge has 21 people on its executive board, said Stuti, “which seems like a lot, but we have over 200 people to manage.
“We’re really counting on them. It’s like a support network where early on when we started in March, it was just the two of us and we had to do all of those things. But now, the responsibilities have been delegated a bit better. We’re hoping that it won’t be too taxing on any of our execs.”
With that, Esther said, members of the executive team have taken over specific initiatives, including “Genius Hour.”
“We invite university professors to come in and give a spiel on what they have been doing in their own research areas,” explained Esther. “The first professor that we had was actually a family friend of mine, and he was more than happy to talk about what he was researching.”
For more information on the Learning Bridge, or to join, visit learningbridge.online.