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One plus one equals tutor

Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Cascade Christian High senior Kaylea Bell works on a math problem while on Zoom from her Medford home.
Cascade Christian senior caps Girl Scout years by starting academic service

Finding a way to merge her passion for helping others, her academic strengths and years of tutoring experience, a local Girl Scout has created a website to pair volunteer tutors with students in need.

Kaylea Bell, 17, was tasked with executing a purposeful project for her “senior year” of scouting and her Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest rank achievable and the capstone of her years in scouting.

The Cascade Christian High School senior has been assisting others academically since her early teens, when she answered a teacher’s call for volunteer peer tutors. Given the unusual climate of education during the pandemic, Kaylea decided to offer virtual and, eventually, in-person tutoring connections via her new website, “1:1 Tutoring.”

Kaylea said both academic assistance and just having someone willing to offer help can make a huge difference for students who are having a hard time in school.

“At the end of sixth grade, beginning of seventh, my math teacher was like, ‘I’m looking for some kids who understood the material to tutor your peers or the younger students, in like fourth or fifth grade,’” said Kaylea.

“I really wanted to do it, so (I) and my friend ended up doing it through junior year. Then, once a week, I would go in and help middle-schoolers with their math. I’m always helping friends with schoolwork. Now I tutor every single day.”

For the free tutoring service, which is registered as a nonprofit, Kaylea will recruit volunteers — she’ll require background checks — to match with students who need academic help.

“Kids who need tutoring but can’t afford it for whatever reason, or they can’t find someone willing to help them out, they can go on there and sign up and look for a tutor that matches the subject they need help with,” explained Kaylea.

"Tutors can sign up to help with whatever they're good at. And they can sign up to help in one subject or get a little help in something that maybe they're struggling with."

Helen Funk, Expo director and a busy mom trying to grapple with changing school schedules during COVID-19, said Kaylea’s tutoring had made a huge impact for her daughter Zoie.

“My daughter turned 10 in April, and those kids were sent home in March,” Funk said. “She wasn’t even old enough to be home alone, and she was supposed to be teaching herself while I was at work?

“Kaylea had been babysitting her for years and she had known her through the Girl Scout program and day camp. We asked her to step up from babysitting and keep her engaged with her reading program every day after school. She immediately stepped in. She’s incredible.”

Funk said the website to pair tutors and students would no doubt have lasting benefits for students struggling after more than a year of closures and limited access to teachers.

“Our teachers have done a great job, and I know they’ve all done their best with all those great videos and having to be really creative for our kids, but for the kids who are having a harder time engaging with wanting to learn, having somebody you look up to is going to make you want to learn even more,” said Funk.

“Zoie thinks Kaylea hung the moon. She looks up to her like an older sister. This worked because they were a great fit, and now Kaylea is helping to find that for other students who have a need. Kaylea could teach Zoie anything — she could teach her Mandarin Chinese and she would want to learn it.”

Karen Miller, Kaylea’s mentor for the project and her middle-school math teacher who jumpstarted the teen on tutoring, said Kaylea had a heart for helping in big ways.

"Kaylea wants all students to have access to tutoring. Many low-income students ride the bus home after school and may not have access to teachers’ after- school office hours,” Miller said.

“Kaylea has recruited some of her friends, who share the desire to help kids with math. She has seen how the dynamics of tutoring, one on one, can increase learning and confidence. Her 1:1 tutoring for all matches students with tutors where they can schedule Zoom tutoring sessions. The timing of this idea could not be better as more and more students have access to technology and internet.”

Kaylea said she hoped the service would reach kids in need of both academic help and even a little bit of a connection during these tough times.

“I feel like a really big problem in school is kids who can’t afford tutoring but also maybe they just feel really overwhelmed right now and they’re feeling lost in the classroom so they can’t learn anything,” she said.

“I want the kids who need a confidence boost to have that help. Tutoring builds confidence in kids and shows them what they can achieve. It’s been a hard year, so the kids that were struggling before are having an even harder time now.”

She added, “I hope this will reach those kids who really need it. … I just want kids to realize they can accomplish things in their lives.”

The service is free, but donations will be used to build and maintain the website and cover expenses related to running the program. To donate or to sign up — to tutor, be tutored, or both — see 1to1tutoring.org.

Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.