FFCHS student volunteers to teach younger students remotely
Last updated 4/21/2021 at 9:44am | View PDF
While a lot has been said about how COVID-19 affected extracurricular events like sports and student clubs, it's also limited students who want to do volunteer work. Savannah Storms, a junior at Fountain-Fort Carson High School (FFCHS), got around that problem by joining an online program called YAPA Kids, where high school students volunteer to teach subjects to students in grades 1-8. Storms discovered the project while looking for volunteer opportunities and joined in November 2020.
"What interested me about the program was that it's entirely online," Storms said. "Participating in extracurriculars is something I have always enjoyed, but before COVID I felt limited in my abilities to have leadership positions and large commitments because my parents both work and I can't drive yet so transportation is difficult. YAPA has shown me how much I can do with no limitations."
Started in Cupertino, Calif., in 2020, YAPA Kids was built around an unusual model: high school students volunteering to teach younger students virtually. Each instructor is a high school student who gives free 30- to 40-minute classes over Zoom. Classes fit into four categories (Humanities, Science, technology, engineering and mathmetics, known as STEM, Arts and Language), and YAPA volunteers create the material for the classes. Storms teaches art, photography and Spanish, and has been impressed by the virtual community she's plugged into within the program.
"YAPA Kids is run entirely by high schoolers, mainly in the USA but some in other countries such as Canada," Storms explained. "We communicate through Facebook Messenger, make curriculum with Google Classroom, Forms, Docs and Slides, and take attendance and keep track of all information in the program through Google Sheets. What's the most unique about YAPA is that no adults are involved in the organization. That has shown me just how promising Generation Z is and what we can set our minds to with no help from older adults."
Students do not receive grades for the classes they complete, and YAPA isn't coordinated with schools to serve as a replacement for regular classes. Instead, it works as a supplement to help students struggling with learning due to the various changes created by COVID. Despite the lack of academic credits for completing classes, Storms found to her surprise that many of her YAPA students dove into the material.
"It shocked me to see the engagement kids have in these classes that are entirely optional and offer no prizes or recognition for participating," she said. "It has told me a lot about how we see the world as young kids before we are conditioned to seek out things solely because they will give us credit or recognition."
Storms has also seen how YAPA Kids provided unexpected ways for her to grow.
"Through volunteering for YAPA Kids, I have learned to have more confidence in my abilities to achieve great things," Storms said. "Before COVID, I felt like I was lacking leadership skills and like I was not using a lot of my time productively due to the limits I faced with extracurriculars. YAPA Kids is entirely online, so my parents don't have to drive me anywhere, sign anything or get involved at all, and I can volunteer anytime, anywhere, so long as the environment is not too distracting. This has made my confidence skyrocket because since joining YAPA in November 2020, I have gotten over 60 community service hours doing things I truly enjoy."
To learn more about YAPA Kids, visit their website yapakids.org or check out their Facebook page, facebook.com/yapakids.