GIVE Youth, Northern Virginia
Rishi Lahoti on March 25, 2019 in Education
“We truly believe that a quality education has the power to open doors for individuals throughout their entire lives.” GIVE Youth, a community organization founded in 2010 and run by high school students, is aiming to impact positive change on the lives of underprivileged kids by spending a couple of hours every week tutoring.
Angie Sohn, a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School and Executive Director for more than a year, says GIVE Youth’s mission is special -“Our mission is to support students in developing the skills, character, and confidence needed to pursue their goals. Through free weekly tutoring sessions run by high school volunteers, a summer social entrepreneurship program, and outreach to local schools, we strive to empower youth in our community through an educational lens.” The organization was established ten years ago by high schoolers who recognized resource disparities in their community. In particular, they identified that many immigrant and working-class families lacked access to tutoring services for their children. As a result, GIVE was created in an effort to give back to these families.
“Our organization has multiple locations that offer free weekly tutoring sessions. Each location has one to three Center Managers, or high school volunteers who lead the sessions,” Sohn said. Over this past decade, the organization has grown from one location to currently twenty locations, impacting over 5000 students and volunteers in total. But with fast growth, they have also had their fair share of obstacles. She continued, “Some of our centers lack a sufficient number of tutors that attend tutoring sessions on a regular basis. It’s unfortunate because it’s crucial for the tutees to get proper support at each session. It’s a lot harder to manage when there’s a disproportionate tutor to tutee ratio.”
Founded by Kevin Cao and Abrar Omeish at Mason District Government Center, GIVE has projects other than their weekly tutor sessions. For the summer of 2018, GIVE partnered with the non-profit Collect for Kids in order to host a backpack drive. Collect for Kids is a non-profit which donates school supplies to low-income students in Fairfax County Public Schools, and has impacted over 39,000 of these students. This summer, GIVE collected a total of 40 backpacks which will go towards students at Weyanoke Elementary School and Holmes Middle School. Moreover, they have made strides towards fixing disposal of barely used prep books. “With the end of AP exams and SATs, many students throw away their lightly used prep books. In response to this, GIVE started several AP-SAT book drives to collect these prep books and distribute them to high school students across the area. For the summer of 2018, we collected a total of 60 prep books. Over the course of the past years, GIVE has collected a total of 300+ prep books which have benefited schools in D.C. and the Northern Virginia region.”
When asked about what keeps them going, Sohn said, “At tutoring sessions, volunteers will often talk to parents of the tutees. We’ve heard many instances in which parents mention how much their child has improved in a certain area such as math or reading. Other times, parents will mention how much their child looks forward to the tutoring sessions and the friendships they’ve made with the tutors and other tutees. It’s always exciting to hear such positive feedback from parents, and it gives us the motivation to continue improving our program.” She also talked about the cause of the organization, explaining, “While we are very blessed to live in such an area as Northern Virginia, there are many significant divides in equity that aren’t always recognized. For example, despite our area’s reputation as being relatively wealthy, more than 30% of students in Fairfax County Public Schools are eligible for free-reduced lunch meals. Recognizing this inequity, we believe that it’s important to play an active role in closing the resource gap. It gives us so much fulfillment to see the impact we make on empowering students both on a large-scale and a small-scale. From seeing the number of tutees we serve increase daily, to hearing about an individual student’s progress, every achievement is extremely valuable to us and our mission.”
As a message for the readers, she said this - “We truly believe that a quality education has the power to open doors for individuals throughout their entire lives. Just tutoring a child every week can go a long way, both in supporting them academically and helping them transform into a confident individual. Through mentorship, a child can realize their dreams and build the self-confidence to accomplish any feat no matter what obstacles they face. It’s amazing to see the impact a strong education, caring mentors, and a support system can have on a child’s growth.”
High school students can register to become volunteer tutors through GIVE’s website at any time of the year. They also accept and greatly appreciate any donations to the program--if you are interested in donating, please contact them at their primary email [email protected]. Any donations received are used for purchasing workbooks and other supplies for tutoring centers. Spread the word and give back by visiting them at Facebook and Instagram.