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For High Schoolers, Times Will Never Be So Uncertain. They Don’t Have To Be

New Services, like Stanford University’s Tree Tutors, Are Offering a Helping Hand.

Tree Tutors
June 25,  2020

Two months ago, I thought I had it the worst. My freshman college experience was derailed. Friendships that had just begun to bloom, cut at the stem. For days I mourned alongside friends the lost picnics, the 3 am conversations lasting unwittingly into dawn, and the readings creeping up to deadlines. We mourned the missed opportunities to strengthen the bonds we had made during our too-short time on the Stanford campus, and the mourning bled into our lives after we left. It was only after the dust began to settle — and uncertainty became my only certainty — that I realized something critical: my peers and I aren’t the only students filled with concerns about our educational future. So are high schoolers.

Around the United States and all across the world, sophomores, freshmen, juniors and seniors are left deeply uncertain about what is generally regarded as the most certain experience of someone’s life up until they are sent off to college. The fact that school happens every year, in some form or another, is universal. We expect the back-to-school ads, trying on prom outfits, the senioritis creeping in during the spring, and the anxious waiting for the summer. But in between, you go to school. You cram for tests, do your homework (hopefully), study out of absurdly heavy textbooks, and take advantage of the resources you have to maximize your schooling.

For high schoolers now, those rites of passage are completely up in the air.

Until at least the fall, going to school at all is anywhere between an impossibility and mystery.

The lack of school normalcy is felt across the board, be it by the many high school students who have personified grit and have dedicated countless hours in and outside of the classroom into academics, or the college-bound scholars who were resolved on converting the past four years of college research, SAT and ACT prep work to lifelong achievements.

Welcome to the online era. Insufficient, isn’t it?

This new, more globalized education system uprooting the high school experience has highlighted the gap among competing students. With the SAT being a system to game and the college application process being a game to play, there’s this absence of fair representation apparent in secondary educational institutions. The lack of access to educational tools, support resources, and mentorship for the various students coming from underserved communities is, to put it simply, alarming.

There are now many who are sitting at home unsure of what the rest of the year and maybe the rest of their life will look like. A few weeks ago, while we sat at home working towards finishing another quarter at Stanford, we thought of what a sudden and drastic change like this would have meant to us at such a critical turning point in our lives. Everyone faces uncertainties during these unusual times, but as my peers and I dried our tears, we set out to do something about it.

Our motive is simple: It’s what we hope someone would do if we were in those shoes.

So we tapped into our extraordinary network, reaching out to our peers and community at Stanford and beyond, and leveraging all the merits, privileges, and tools that Stanford University had equipped us with. In one week, we created a website. In two weeks, we had a cavalry of nearly 300 world-class students interested in committing their time and expertise in helping to make a difference, no matter where they were located in the world. In three weeks, we formed a tutoring company and began offering our services to the countless thousands of impacted high school students.

Tree Tutors aims to provide accessible, affordable tutoring by pairing Stanford students with high schoolers around the country and the world. By doing so, we fulfill a dual need of helping high schoolers to have a meaningful educational experience and of employing college students who can use the additional income. Many of our tutors have lost their on-campus jobs and are now faced with unexpected financial insecurities or obligations. For this reason, Tree Tutors is student-centered at every step of the way; the more students we can reach, the bigger of a difference we can make in our both broader and immediate communities.

Photo by J. Kelly Brito on Unsplash

Our financial model is based on a dynamic of get-two-give-one; for every two one-hour sessions Tree Tutors teaches, we provide a free hour of learning to a student who demonstrates financial need. We compile free resources that are organized by Stanford students, sharing details about their college experience, lessons learned during their time in high school, and personal knowledge & academic expertise. It’s important for all the college hopefuls out there that even those who’ve ‘made it’ have encountered major hurdles. More importantly, Tree Tutors offer a sense of normalcy, a lifeline to a disrupted educational system, at a time when guidance is becoming increasingly uncommon.

In these past few weeks, we’ve realized just how insufficient online schooling is. Taking classes from a computer does far too little for far too many. Turns out, Zoom High isn’t all it’s cut out to be.

It’s easy to be unmotivated at this time. It’s hard finding routine and meaningful ways to wait for weeks to pass by.

So, high schoolers: if you can, see this advantage. Take the time to make an impact, on your education or in your community.

We’re amazed at the response Tree Tutors has received so far, and we’re excited to see what the future holds for us. In the coming weeks and months, we hope to further our mission of providing affordable, world-class tutoring to students across the country, from packed metropolitan areas to quiet rural towns. Our team comes from them all. In times of crisis, it is very easy for vulnerable people to slip through the cracks of our education system. Through Tree Tutors, we plan on doing our part to prevent this. We can’t give you your normal classroom back, but we can prepare you while it’s gone.

We’re posting more reflections, resources, and lessons on our website and Facebook. Check them out for more.

This article was written alongside Xavier Martinez, Bella Meyn, Kylie Holland and Olu Olaleye.

Stanford students have come together to offer online tutoring for College Prep, SAT/ACTs, and every high school course. While for many high school students this time can feel like education lost, with us, it's an opportunity to thrive.


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