Lauren To, left, and Nyasia Lambert-White, right, co-creators of Tutoring by Two, started the free tutoring service to give back to the Las Cruces community after seeing the difficulties fellow students faced due to online learning. (Photo: Lauren To and Nyasia Lambert-White)
LAS CRUCES – Lauren To and Nyasia Lambert-White saw the difficulties students normally had with math studies worsen as classes went completely online in March.
As high school freshmen at the time, they decided they wanted to make a difference.
The two, now sophomores at Arrowhead Park Early College High School, took action in April to create a free virtual math tutoring service called Tutoring by Two.
“Math is already such a hard subject … and just being moved into a pandemic and having to move into an online environment — especially halfway through the semester — it threw a lot of people off,” To said. “We had a lot of friends coming to us asking for help for assignments.”
The two have recruited eight additional tutors who attend Arrowhead Park ECHS who all teach different levels of math — from kindergarten to eighth grade.
“We have all these resources at our hands, and there’s so many people who need help,” To said. “We were just like, ‘We can do something.'”
Lambert-White added that they were motivated not only by the needs of students, but also the difficulties parents and teachers are facing with online learning, noting that parents are not used to playing such a huge role in their children’s education and that many teachers are new to the online teaching tools.
According to Lambert-White and To, with the help of their principal and teacher advisors, they have connected with White Sands School, Zia Middle, Alameda Elementary, Fairacres Elementary and Highland Elementary to offer their free services.
So far, they’ve helped about 20 young students, and they are motivated to provide more help.
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“Helping one person was the goal,” To said. “As long as we could help at least one person succeed, we were happy … It’s encouraged us to move forward.”
As students themselves, Lambert-White and To recognized many of the struggles students are facing due to the pandemic. To said she believes offering peer-to-peer services will be less intimidating for shy students.
Lambert-White said she herself often struggled to ask questions in class — or even after class — due to her shy personality, but with online learning, she sees that distance from student to teacher widening.
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“It can be a lot more difficult, because you never know when the teacher is available — especially if they might have internet connection (trouble),” Lambert-White said. “It’s a lot more difficult to maybe get a hold of your teachers online. Nobody really wants to ask their teacher during the Zoom class because it’s a lot, really.”
The two girls said their tutoring service could be more comfortable for students in this way.
To said that they’re able to understand the exact problems that younger students are trying to solve because they just solved those problems a couple years before — as opposed to a parent or someone much older. She added that some concepts or learning techniques may have changed.
Arrowhead Park Early College High School in Las Cruces. (Photo: Nathan J Fish/Sun-News)
Building a community
Nicco Kiersey, a fourth-grader at White Sands Elementary, has been learning from To and Lambert-White since the beginning of the school year in August. His aunt, Raven Bowler, said he already had trouble with math before, and online learning pushed his limits further.
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Bowler said she felt unqualified to teach him and felt relieved when she saw the advertisement for Tutoring by Two on the school website. Since August, Nicco has been learning from To and Lambert-White every Wednesday in a virtual tutoring session.
“At first, I didn’t like math, but my tutors helped me learn that math can be fun,” Kiersey said.
Bowler said her nephew was struggling with double-digit addition, but thanks so the Tutoring by Two service, his skills have vastly improved and he is doing well with multiplication.
Kiersey said he preferred learning from his tutors. Bowler added that he is able to get more one-on-one help from his tutors because his teacher only offers a daily, hour-long office hour session where they have to meet with all their students that need help during that time.
“Those girls are amazing, and they’re doing it for free, which is crazy to me,” Bowler said about Tutoring by Two. “I just can’t say enough praises about them because they’ve helped that much.”
To said she and Lambert-White want to create a community with Tutoring by Two to support fellow students the best they can through online learning.
Other tutoring centers in Las Cruces have adapted their services for online tutoring to continue helping students learn, including Sylvan Learning, Mesilla Valley Education Enhancement Center and Learn for a Lifetime. Online resources also organize local tutoring options by age, subject and price range.
Beyond the pandemic, To and Lambert-White want to continue providing tutoring services throughout their high school career.
“We’re hoping that — when we do graduate — we pass it down to other high schoolers that go to our school,” Lambert-White said, “Hopefully they keep the tradition going, looking for more tutors and contacting the schools, just to remind them that we’re here to help.”
To find out more about Tutoring by Two’s free services, visit tutoringbylaurenandnyasia.weebly.com or sites.google.com/view/tutoringbytwo/
Miranda Cyr, a Report for America corps member, can be reached at [email protected] or @mirandabcyr on Twitter. Show your support for the Report for America program at https://bit.ly/LCSNRFA.
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