'It has been nothing but a blessing.' Local nonprofit offers tutoring services for distance learners during COVID-19 pandemic

Thousands of Southern California students are distance learning and falling behind, Local nonprofit El Nido Family Source Center gives students tutoring help while distance learning during the coronavirus pandemic.

Jovana Lara Image
Wednesday, October 21, 2020
Tutors with non-profit help underserved students dealing with remote learning
Non-profit El Nido Family Source Center gives students tutoring help while distance learning during coronavirus pandemic

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Thousands of Southern California students are distance learning and falling behind. Desperate parents are hiring tutors to help kids keep up, but what if you can't afford one?

One-on-one tutoring can run anywhere from $30 to $100 an hour or more. The cost is making it impossible for many families to afford, especially in the midst of a pandemic. It's why Kisha Valencia never considered tutoring for her son. Then she learned about the El Nido Family Source Center, a nonprofit funded by the city of L.A.

"They asked about your kids, and your income, and I qualified for Christian to receive free tutoring, so of course I took advantage of it," said Valencia. "And it has been nothing but a blessing."

Christian Valencia, a 12-year-old 7th-grader at Alliance Virgil Roberts Leadership Academy, found himself struggling to keep up with his school work. His grades were suffering until he started working with El Nido tutor Sophia Stoller. They've been meeting online, once a week, for seven months.

MORE: Pandemic exposing digital divide among LA students

A study finds 17% of families surveyed from South LA, Watts and Boyle Heights have no internet at home. Many students could be left behind due to technology inequities.

"She's tutoring me in anything with reading, like history, English," said Christian.

"I hope that I've been helpful for him. I've definitely seen improvements in his reading his writing as well," said Stoller.

She is among the three dozen tutors at El Nido, in the growing online program with a waitlist of students.

"The need is just so much more critical now with the remote learning and all of the challenges, that particularly young people from low economic families are experiencing," said Liz Herrera, El Nido Director.

Herrera says El Nido has long offered in-person tutoring services. Some families still prefer it, but they're finding that online, one-on-one sessions are effective and easier for students to attend, despite technological obstacles.

"We have kids that use their phone because they don't have a computer but it definitely bridges the gap in taking out that transportation barrier. A lot of families in this community take public transportation," said Cecilia Trujillo, El Nido Family Source Center.

"We just really try to make sure that our students are engaged," said Stoller. "Again, ask them questions, ask them how their day is going. Because for us, tutoring is about the academic side and also the emotional side."

"I think it's really helpful when social service agencies that provide a multitude of services can also provide that academic support; kind of a one stop, no wrong-door approach," said Herrera.

"I mean, every student is just as deserving of that education and of that support as any other," said Stoller.

"I appreciate their service for the community. And I pray that more people take advantage of it, because it's an awesome service and they're doing great work over there," said Valencia.

MORE: LA Learning center brings students back to the classroom safely

The Hope Street Margolis Family Center has set up a safe classroom environment for students and parents are thrilled.