During the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual classrooms were a reality not just for UCLA students but for young learners of every level. The change was 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 recruited hundreds of UCLA students to support more than 300 K–12 students in foster care. Located from Lancaster to South L.A., the students worked online with UCLA volunteers every week, getting help with math, reading, writing and other subjects.
Families quickly saw a difference. Ten-year-old Carly and nine-year-old Sophie worked with UCLA students Ashley and Jamie in the summer and fall of 2020. The girls’ caregiver, Elisa, was thrilled to report that Carly improved in math with Ashley’s help, while Jamie sent Sophie two books for her birthday to use during reading comprehension sessions.
Tutors, too, enjoyed the process. “It was so easy to sign up and get connected with a family,” said 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 was so appreciative. It was only an hour per week helping with math, but it was so rewarding for them and me.”
The network also provided educational resources for parents and caregivers and referred 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 was 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 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.
“The UCLA Bruin Tutor Network was a 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 were readily available for some students, the generosity, concern and care demonstrated by UCLA students for children in foster care was a breath of fresh air in the quest for educational equity.”
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Updated March 2023