LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Summer is almost here and the long 2020-21 school year is behind us, but the academic damage to our children caused by the pandemic has yet to be determined.
Some experts believe by the fall of this year, student achievement in math will be 50% of typical gains in a school year.
Summer school might be one way to close the gap, but if that's not financially possible, three local teens might have your solution. Project Teens Teach, created almost a year ago by local teens Kacey Fifield, Yogini Vazirani and Lana Kang, offers free tutoring, by teenagers for elementary to high school students.
"A lot of teens would be doing tutoring jobs, or something similar to that for pay. But it's really inspiring for us to see that these kids are volunteering their time to actually help others," says high school junior and co-founder Kacey Fifield.
Based in the Greater Los Angeles area, Project Teens Teach has had over 3,000 people sign up and over 200 sessions in just under a year. Even though most students and mentors are local, because the program is virtual others have joined from India or London and teen mentors have led sessions from New York and New Jersey.
Co-founder Yogini Vazirani explains the goals of each class, "We work to reinforce concepts that maybe students have already learned in the past. And it's very important to keep learning over the summer, so that they're able to adjust to in-person learning once we're back next year."
Lana Kang, another co-founder adds, "It has been so hard for some people during this current pandemic. But for us to take a step out, start a program and help out others and just have such a great impact. And that kind of response has been so great for us and fulfilling."
Created and run entirely by teenagers, the volunteer mentors teach sessions based on their interests, and what they see students actually want to do.
For Lily Goldman that was teaching neuroscience to elementary kids, "You, yourself have to have your own personal interest in it before you share it with the public or with other students. Because then it just adds another, special level of, I'm not going to say creativity, but just sort of an added spark if you will of like, 'Wow, they seem really interested in what they're teaching. I really want to learn it too.'"
Project Teens Teach focuses primarily on a STEAM program: science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. The hope is to help students learn the skills behind the science experiments, gaining an understanding of more complex topics, while having fun.
"If you enroll them in summer school, or even summer tutoring, it might not be as fun for them as hands-on experience, crafting something using their creativity and their critical thinking skills," Fifield says. "And I think that's what's actually going to give these students a boost when they're going back to school next year, giving them academic enrichment, and improving their overall joy for learning."
A new, six-week program is just underway and parents can enroll their children for whichever classes they want in a given week. You can sign up for as many classes as you'd like here for free.
"There will always be a need for free of charge academic opportunity," Vazirani points out.
"We definitely want to go as far as we can, we want to expand as much as possible and help as many people as we can, that would definitely be our goal for the future," adds Kang.
For three young people entering their junior year, their grasp of why this program is so important is impressive, as answered by Fifield, "There is a lot of academic inequity around the world where students just do poorly... because they don't have access to top quality tutors. They don't have access to top quality STEAM programs. And that's something that we really aim to solve. If not try to improve it as much as we can with our impact. We're just trying to help those students who don't have access as much as possible."