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Shreya Barlinge of Instant Tutor

Across the country, students’ lives changed overnight due to the coronavirus pandemic. They suddenly had to adapt to a new way of learning and give up in-person interaction with teachers when schools shut down and courses and schoolwork moved online.

The shift was easier for some than for others, and a few Scarsdale High School students realized they had an opportunity to help others adjust.

SHS sophomores Julia Schnipper and Betsy Harris teamed up to start Quarantine Tutors, a free tutoring service.

“As soon as school moved online, I noticed a clear difference in the way learning was taking place,” said Schnipper, president and co-founder of Quarantine Tutors. “Most of what I was doing was teaching myself the units, and this is something that most students do not have experience with prior to COVID-19. Although I tend to be very organized and stick to a schedule, I started to wonder how people who do not have those attributes might be surviving through this pandemic. I decided that with my extra time, I wanted to use it to help out.”

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Julia Schnipper of Quarantine Tutors

Schnipper coined the name “Quarantine Tutors” and got to work. She created a website and a social media presence. She realized she needed some help and turned to fellow sophomore Harris. Previously, the two had worked together to start up a Scarsdale UNICEF chapter. Harris said she was thrilled with the chance to work with Schnipper on Quarantine Tutors.

The pair reached out to family and friends, and soon found there was definitely a need for support for kids adjusting to online learning.

Before long they had 40 students working with 20 tutors. They have worked with students all over Westchester County, in New York City, on Long Island, and other states, including Connecticut, New Jersey, Georgia and Florida. They have already done more than 100 tutoring sessions in two months, with each session lasting between 30 and 45 minutes.

“Julia and I reached out to a bunch of our friends and family who lived outside of Scarsdale,” explained Harris. “All of the tutors were able to recruit some of their friends to also be tutors. Our tutors are passionate about Quarantine Tutors and had previous experience working with young kids. Once we were able to acquire many tutors, Julia and I asked them to reach out to their local elementary schools, public libraries, and on social media platforms. Soon enough, we started to receive … students from all over the country. I would say one of the best parts about our organization is that there are no restrictions on locations. We’re able to pair tutors who live in New York City with students who live in Georgia.”

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Betsy Harris of Quarantine Tutors

With summer school moving online, the tutors will continue the service throughout the summer and as long as needed.

All of the tutoring sessions are free of charge, but to accommodate people who insist on helping out with a donation, Schnipper and Harris set up a GoFundMe fundraising effort to benefit GlobalGiving’s COVID-19 relief fund.

“Since Julia and I started this organization during the pandemic,” said Harris, “we thought that it would be a great idea and try to raise money for it. In our weekly newsletter and on our website we have attached our GoFundMe [link] for parents who want to donate. Julia and I are passionate about helping out kids who need extra help with remote learning. We are giving back to the community by providing free services, and we hope that we can get donations that could also help combat the problems of the pandemic.”

For more information, go to www.quarantinetutors.org.

Instant Tutor

Scarsdale junior Shreya Barlinge knew remote learning was a new challenge for students, and after getting herself adjusted to the change, she launched Instant Tutor, a free online learning service.

“When quarantine started it was extremely difficult to shift to online learning despite all the help from my teachers, and I figured that everyone else, especially younger kids, must be feeling the same way,” said Barlinge. “I was inspired to create Instant Tutor because during the school year, I have a part-time job as a tutor which I loved doing, but the pandemic put everything on halt, including my job. With the extra time from quarantine, I realized that I could still tutor and even reach more people by creating Instant Tutor. I didn’t want the situation to stop people from learning and I wanted to help as many kids as possible. While this initiative did start because of the pandemic, we plan on continuing to offer free tutoring even after everything returns to normal because the mission of this project is to continue making tutoring more accessible to everyone.” 

Barlinge set up two options for students to get help from her tutors. First there is an online classroom, which is a 30-minute Zoom session to go over class work. The other service is a homework helper; if students need help on a homework problem, they can reach out for a tutor any time from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day.

Instant Tutor now has more than 30 students working with 13 tutors in states across the country, including New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois and California.

In addition to helping others, Barlinge said it has been very rewarding for her and the other tutors to find an avenue for positive outreach during this time.

“Tutoring is so fulfilling and refreshing,” added Barlinge. “It’s amazing to see kids start to like a subject that they might not have before they started using Instant Tutor. For example, one of the students I’ve been working with hated math and struggled with it when I first met her but, over just a few weeks, she is much better at math and even enjoys it.”

The online service can be reached at https://bit.ly/2ZB8nII.

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