This past year was difficult for all of us amidst the coronavirus pandemic, and millions of American families are struggling more than ever before. Knowing this, a sophomore at the University of Michigan has started offering free virtual tutoring to help children in low income families with their school work.

Alina Bardwell explained that she wanted to get involved in volunteering this past summer, but COVID-19 made doing that in person impossible. That’s how she came up with the idea of becoming an online tutor.

When fall came and schools transitioned to online, Alina realized that many children would need help keeping up with school, particularly kids from low-income families that can’t afford typical tutoring rates.

“We all know that lower-income families have been hit harder than anyone by the pandemic. Some have lost their jobs, some have been forced to quit in order to help their kids with school, many are essential workers working long hours and cannot be home to help their kids with school,” Alina told Mlive. “We want to give back in the best, safest way we can: by helping their kids perform better in school for free.”

Throughout the summer, Alina drove around Ypsilanti hanging posters that had her contact info on them, spreading the word about free virtual tutoring. The demand for her online tutoring quickly grew, so Alina had to ask a friend to help her out. Before long, the two of them realized that they were going to need even more volunteers.

Alina eventually teamed up with over a dozen students from her university to launch MiTutor, which is a free online tutoring service. Alina posted in a local Facebook group that the interest in MiTutor has grown significantly, and even her post garnered responses from over forty more interested parents.

“Above all, we are focusing on building strong relationships with our students and helping them enjoy learning,” Bardwell said. “Our matching program is designed to foster these relationships so that students feel comfortable with one tutor helping them with their schoolwork.”

Alina said that she and her fellow students are doing the best they can to accommodate the demand, but they are hoping to get more tutors to volunteer as the program grows.

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