Academic Allies sought for Westerville's blended-learning students

Marla K. Kuhlman
ThisWeek group
Learn more about the Academic Allies program and watch a video at westervilleeducationfoundation.com/academic-allies.

Volunteers are wanted in Westerville to help students as Academic Allies in a virtual environment.

Colleen Moidu, executive director of the Westerville Education Foundation, said she has heard from many caring, compassionate and empathic individuals who want to help students, teachers and parents as they navigate remote learning this school year. 

“Academic Allies is an opportunity for volunteers with academic subject-matter expertise to get involved and make a difference with students, parents and teachers in Westerville City Schools,” Moidu said. 

The program will match Westerville students with volunteers for virtual academic support, she said.

The new initiative is in partnership with the Westerville Education Foundation, Neighborhood Bridges and the Westerville City Schools in collaboration with the Ohio Retired Teachers Association. 

Moidu said the program allows volunteers who have the content knowledge and/or teaching experience to make a significant impact on the life of a student who's trying to navigate this challenging time of remote learning.

She said teachers, school administrators and guidance counselors identify students who are eager to learn but are struggling with remote learning.

As an Academic Ally, a volunteer will be paired with one student who will benefit from the volunteer’s experience and knowledge of the subject matter that is most challenging for the student, Moidu said.

The student and volunteer will meet virtually during mutually agreed-upon times for live, videoconferencing sessions.  

Moidu said a commitment of two to four hours weekly is recommended.

Stephanie Martin, a retired Westerville Central High School chemistry teacher, said the volunteers are those who have some time on their hands and who want to share their expertise. 

“Retirees may like having a way to help in the community, and it would give connection to someone new,” she said. “It would help the student and the student is giving that adult something to be involved in. They’re allies for each other.”

Volunteers may select a specific school to help a student.

“If their kids went through Hawthorne, they can choose that school,” Martin said. “They can help whatever school that needs it.

“I’m a former chemistry teacher. I would want to help with science. I’ll be helping a student at Walnut Springs. I was the first to sign up.”

She said the program is starting at elementary and middle school and then will open up to the high schools. 

“My heart goes out to teachers, parents and students who are trying to navigate this blended learning,” Martin said. “It has to be difficult for everyone. They may just need a helping hand to think through an idea for English or how to start a math problem.”

She said volunteers also could help from anywhere.  

“If you have a phone or internet, you can support a student from wherever you are,” she said. “People can do it from the comfort of their own home or vacation spot.

“We can accommodate as many people who want to help," she said. "The district is huge, and the majority is doing the blended thing.”

There is no cost to participate; however, all Academic Allies volunteers must have the technical equipment/internet connection to support videoconferences via Skype, FaceTime, Zoom or another platform, according to Moidu.

John Kellogg, Westerville schools superintendent, said in a promotional video that he thinks Academic Allies is a great idea.

“Matching community members with our students in all kinds of content areas, all kinds of grade levels – we could have a lot of success with this model,” he said. “This sounds awesome.” 

Anyone wanting to volunteer should sign up online at westervilleeducationfoundation.com/academic-allies.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla