By Hillary Chang, FCSN Voices Youth Reporter
Since the launch of the SNTutoring (Special Needs Tutoring) program in March, the program has expanded from a pilot program with just 13 students to more than 160 matches in just six months. The SNTutoring program, previously known as the Flexible Subject Virtual Tutoring Program, originated from a FCSN volunteer’s concern about the effects of the shelter-in-place directive on special needs students.
When students first shifted to remote learning, many special needs students had their routines interrupted and daily activities stripped away. FCSN program coordinators agreed that a one-on-one tutoring program would offer structure in the students’ daily lives and the specialized attention could make up for the disruption in their schedules.
As a result, FCSN Volunteer Manager Mannching Wang set up a month-long pilot program to test the idea. After the first 13 students involved in the pilot program were surveyed, the program revealed a 100% percent satisfaction rate, with all parents interested in continuing with their matches. Due to the success of the pilot program, coordinators Linmei Chiao, Mannching Wang, Yvette Ying, and Isabella He developed the SNTutoring program with the mission of enriching the lives of FCSN students by fostering friendships between volunteer tutors and special needs students.
The SNTutoring program offers a year-round virtual program that supports students interested in a variety of academic and non-academic topics, ranging from STEM, drawing, and board games to music and sports. Among the program’s most popular subjects are piano, reading, and math, which cumulatively account for more than 100 matches. Registrations are ongoing, and session dates and subjects are completely flexible—meaning the student’s parents and the tutor can set up all logistics based on their own preferences. Once program coordinators discover a volunteer and a student with common interests, Tutor Coordinator Isabella He matches students and tutors together in the interest of forming life-long friendships. After a decided match, Parent Coordinator Yvette Ying connects the parents and tutors together, and the tutoring journey begins. What differentiates the program from other FCSN programs is the option for parents to tailor classes to their student’s preferences. Parents often work with the tutor to customize classes to their child’s learning abilities or interests, changing classes to match their child’s learning abilities or degree of difficulty. Throughout the program, Program Supervisor Mannching Wang routinely performs check-ins by reviewing feedback forms from both parties to assure the quality of each session. Program Lead Linmei Chiao ensures that the program maintains its high quality tutoring sessions and facilitates communications between coordinators, parents, and tutors.
Over the six months since the program began operation, the program has achieved a lot of success. The program coordinators have all received positive feedback from parents and students regarding the program. In fact, more than half of the students enjoy the program to such an extent that their parents have requested multiple tutors for their children.
The SNTutoring program’s success lies in the youth volunteers’ dedication and the students’ eagerness to learn. With both parties’ enthusiasm, volunteers and students have both heavily benefitted from the program. The program has enabled volunteers to form a bond with their students and witness their students grow session by session, as coordinator Isabella He explains, “the volunteering experience is one of the most meaningful experiences, because the bond [tutors] form is a direct bond that [they] can’t really get at other programs and organizations.” Similarly, the program has helped students remain socially active during the pandemic, while making up for the typical classes and in-person instructions students now lack. By establishing routine into the students’ weekly schedules, the program brings more consistency back into their lives.
With all of the advancements in the SNTutoring program, program coordinators aim to carry on the program’s mission of guiding FCSN students by teaching them how to build upon their strengths and improve every day, while also giving youth volunteers the opportunity to transform lives and witness steady growths in their students. As the program continues to grow, program coordinators are committed to tailoring sessions to accommodate the needs of each special needs student and strive to ensure each special needs student has the attention and support needed through his/her classes by following up more frequently on initial connections and hosting more regular check-ins. Program coordinators also work to improve the matching process by implementing an automated database to track matches more efficiently. Linmei Chiao said, “With such rapid growth within such a short timespan, we hope to see many new faces join the program, along with the already familiar ones.”