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Teens organize free virtual tutoring programs to aid kids with remote learning amid pandemic

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Many children have spent more than a year attending school virtually, raising significant concerns about a growing inequality gap. For the "CBS This Morning" series A More Perfect Union, Jan Crawford introduces high school students around the country who are on a mission to bridge that divide by teaching what they've learned to younger students.

Video Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING]

- Our series, A More Perfect Union, aims to show that what unites us as Americans is far greater than what divides us. We know that that is true. Many students have spent this past year going to class virtually, raising significant concerns about a growing inequality gap. But some groups of high school students are finding ways to bridge that divide even as most school districts reopen safely by teaching what they've learned to younger students. Jan Crawford has their stories.

ELLA CAUSSEAUX: And suddenly, thump, thump. Eek!

JAN CRAWFORD: For most of first and all of second grade, eight-year-old Ella's classroom has been a computer.

ELLA CAUSSEAUX: The sound is coming.

JAN CRAWFORD: But behind this screen in her Virginia home--

- This morning, we felt so tired.

JAN CRAWFORD: Is the voice that's kept alive Ella's joy of learning.

ELLA CAUSSEAUX: My tutor's name is Miss Emilie She's kind and really, really sweet. I love her so much.

[PIANO PLAYING]

JAN CRAWFORD: Miss Emily is 18-year-old Emily Kalt, a high school senior in New York City.

EMILIE KALT: When my guidance counselor at my school told me about this opportunity to tutor online, I started tutoring her in reading. And her reading has improved so much. She's excited to just read everything.

ELLA CAUSSEAUX: Iggy is my best friend.

JAN CRAWFORD: Ella and Emily connected through Intutorly, one of dozens of free online tutoring programs that was started last spring by high school students.

- As high school students, we understand the struggles of virtual learning.

JAN CRAWFORD: Intuitively was created by two Virginia teenagers, Alex and his younger brother Ben.

BEN JOEL: We were just dismayed to find that there was an entire generation that would be forced to play catch-up, perhaps for years to come.

- We wanted to do something to help bridge that gap.

JAN CRAWFORD: What did you do? How did it start?

- We reached out to our friends, classmates, and family members. And in the early days, we had more tutors than students.

JAN CRAWFORD: How many do you have now?

BEN JOEL: So we have over a thousand students and tutors, and about 500 each.

EMILIE KALT: And since the Gulf War is a proper noun--

JAN CRAWFORD: Matches like these are happening in other free online tutoring programs also started after the lock downs by teenagers, like Educove, run by Ian, Subyeta, Joyce, and Christian in New York.

- We basically came up with this idea to connect students as a way to promote social exchange, which was something we all were missing with online learning.

- It was just word of mouth and then constant, just more contacting. And I think as of now we have around 60 to 70 tutee.

JAN CRAWFORD: Their mission also was personal.

CHRISTIAN NWENYI: We had an up close view of this with my two younger brothers. They were in sixth and fourth grade at the time and they were really struggling. Their focus it sometimes wanes with virtual school, it's harder to keep on track, and it left them a little bit behind with math and English.

JAN CRAWFORD: Jason is Christian's youngest brother.

- In in-person school, the teacher would walk around the class room and talking to individuals. But then in online, the teacher would teach the whole class in one session, and there's no group work.

JAN CRAWFORD: These teenagers may have first signed on to help others but soon realized teaching taught them a different lesson.

CHRISTIAN NWENYI: Educove, it was an opportunity for me to find something to really put my mind into and to really dedicate myself into. And it really filled the hole that was sort of left in my heart by not being able to go to school.

EMILIE KALT: It's been hard to deal with the isolation. It's the one thing that really pulled me through the pandemic. Hey Ella, is that hard for you? Having this bond with Ella, she's not someone I would've met normally and I really appreciate that.

ELLA CAUSSEAUX: Super sparkly--

JAN CRAWFORD: CBS This Morning, I'm Jan Crawford in Washington.

ELLA CAUSSEAUX: History of sparkle grove forest.

- I want to stay with the history of sparkle grove.

- Yeah, me too, I love hearing kids read. It's just so cool.

- So sweet.

- I do too, but how about those high school student?

- Yes.

- So impressive.

- Who saw a need and thought, we can do something about this.

- And so many, all over.

- Bravo, yes.

- Yeah.

- I know, it's real initiative too. I mean to go from to no students a full slate, making a difference.