Scholar Studio, a free virtual tutoring program started by high school students, will return for its second year in August with middle-school math, history and computer science classes and Specialized High School Admissions Test prep.
“The summer was rolling around [last year] and a lot of our classmates and students from other places were going to attend prep classes, but with parents losing jobs and the pandemic going, it was not affordable or safe to go outside, so we thought we would expand what we do in our old middle school to the entire country,” said Xiaoshen Ma, a rising senior at Stuyvesant High School from Forest Hills.
Ma, Alyssa Choi, also of Stuyvesant from Forest Hills, and Emma Bell of Jamaica, who attends Townsend Harris High School in Kew Gardens Hills and is also a rising senior, were students of JHS 190, Russell Sage, in Forest Hills and would tutor their classmates while they were in sixth- to eighth-grade.
“We all went to Russell Sage,” said Alyssa. “I want to shout out Mr. William Collins ,our math team coach, who gave us free prep classes and tutoring. I also want to shout out Mr. David Lee, who was our math teacher who helped us prepare for the SHSAT. This program was also a way for us to give back to the community. We had a lot of resources because our teachers really cared for us, so we wanted to do the same thing for other middle school students who were struggling due to the pandemic.”
The high school students initially considered charging for their services via online money transfer applications like PayPal or Venmo, but took into consideration that some people might not have a bank account or access to money apps, according to Xiaoshen.
“We really wanted to make this purely for bettering others,” said Xiaoshen. “We didn’t need a location and we didn’t need much materials.”
The pandemic exposed so many inequalities in the school system, that the students have decided they will keep it free going forward after they had over 100 people sign up in 2020 for their Algebra 1, Living Environment, U.S. History and Regents prep courses, according to Alyssa. On average they tutored for 90 hours.
“These Scholar Studio courses are not just focusing on the middle school experience,” said Emma. “We are looking to branch out and help people in their transition to high school life. That is why the computer science course was added, it is essential for high school. The U.S. History course is a basic for high school, plus there is a U.S. History [advanced placement] exam, which will help with college.”
Once Alyssa, Xiaoshen and Emma go to college, they hope to add more introductory AP classes for their tutoring program.
“I know a few of us have already taken and passed our APs,” said Emma. “It really helps to have early preparations for these things. We don’t want our students to be surprised.”
Xiaoshen would like to teach Mandarin courses in the future and Emma would like to teach Spanish and French.
“While doing the program, I have felt the pleasure and joy of seeing students do well,” said Emma. “I see their test scores improve or they email me and tell me that they got into a specialized high school or that they are going to my high school next year.”
Xiaoshen, Alyssa and Emma hope to have a Scholar Studio club in every single high school in the future, but the 17-year-olds are not quite sure what to expect with turning 18 next year.
“I’m excited and nervous,” said Choi of the milestone.
To learn more about the program, visit scholarstudio.org.