During the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual classrooms are a reality not just for UCLA students but for young learners of every level. The change is even more challenging for children involved in foster care.
In response, the UCLA Pritzker Center for Strengthening Children and Families established the Bruin Tutor Network, which has recruited hundreds of UCLA students to support more than 300 K–12 students who are in foster care. Located from Lancaster to South L.A., the students work online with UCLA volunteers every week, getting help with math, reading, writing, and other subjects.
Families already see a difference. Ten-year-old Carly and nine-year-old Sophie have been working with UCLA students Ashley and Jamie since the beginning of summer. The girls’ caregiver, Elisa, is thrilled for the tutoring to continue this fall: She reports that Carly has improved in math with Ashley’s help, while Jamie sent Sophie two books for her birthday to use during reading comprehension sessions.
Tutors, too, are enjoying the process. “It was so easy to sign up and get connected with a family,” says volunteer Adriana. “I had mentors and access to tutors growing up and wanted to give back during this trying time. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but the family has been so appreciative. It’s only an hour per week helping with math, but it is so rewarding for them and me.”
The network also provides educational resources for parents and caregivers and refers them to food banks, legal aid, mental health care, immigration advocacy, and other social services to meet basic needs.
Part of Greater Progress
The Bruin Tutor Network is managed by the UCLA Pritzker Center, which was created in 2018 with a $10 million gift from the Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker Family Foundation. With its work even more urgent during the pandemic, the center also has held a COVID-19 community speaker series and town halls; hosted a three-week summer course on child welfare for UCLA students; and launched efforts against domestic violence and racism in foster care. Amidst these activities, the Bruin Tutor Network will continue to grow.
“The UCLA Bruin Tutor Network is a hopeful response by the UCLA Pritzker Center and UCLA community to provide some of our most vulnerable families and children the academic support they need,” says UCLA education professor Tyrone C. Howard, who directs the center and holds an endowed chair in the Pritzkers’ name. “At a time when learning pods, private tutoring, and academic camps are readily available for some students, the generosity, concern, and care demonstrated by UCLA students for children in foster care is a breath of fresh air in the quest for educational equity.”
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Published November 2020