It was great to hear from a local student today who has made her way to MIT – The Massachusetts Institute of Technology – a world class university and seat of science on the planet. From Oxnard to Boston, this blog connects a superintendent of the Rio School District to a freshman (1st year woman student) at MIT who reached out to the District to help in these coronavirus times. Here is the second edition of the Q&A post;

Q4: Can you provide us an update on what’s happening with the CovEd project you are working on?

As of today, we are currently at 680 K12 student signups (we launched a week ago) and over 1100 tutors. In addition, we have a virtual community/Facebook group of about 950+ members (some of these members are also signed up as mentors, but most are community advocates, educators, parents, etc. that have been sharing resources, as well as providing guidance/sort of poking at our system to help us think of ways to improve  We have been featured on the MIT Rapid Innovation Dashboard (this was in the more earlier stages, which really helped us gain momentum):

Mentors represent over 30(rough estimate?) of top universities/colleges in the U.S. – from looking at the Sheets, it looks like most are from Harvard, MIT, Yale, UCLA/USC, Wellesley, Dartmouth and Princeton. We’re continuing to do outreach in more than 40 counties throughout the U.S. and are recruiting more members to reach out specifically to vulnerable/underserved populations (low income, first generation, Title I schools, single parent households etc.) as well as remote areas with limited access to educational resources, such as small/rural towns.  (shoutout to outreach!) Our website is constantly being updated to match the needs of our students, such as resources for Elementary, Middle and High School students, college application/test prep resources, resources for students with complex needs, etc. (shoutout to our web team!) – since launching on Tuesday (3/24), we’ve gone from 33 views/day to over 2K (per Sanjay, who’s working on the site with Johan, Dheekshu and the web team)

We’re working to create a virtual/automated system for pairing mentor/mentee matches, but in the meantime, we have a team of Coordinators who are working to pair students with mentors manually. This helps us gain a sense of what we should prioritize (for example, if a student has complex needs and we need to find a mentor with experience working with these populations, or if a student’s family speaks a different language).

Our plan is to have this project run throughout at least to the end of this semester (possibly summer), and mentors/mentees can choose to continue their connection beyond CovEd (not sure what the fate of CovEd is – we’ve had a few discussions but this is still unclear). We do plan to keep the website running/updated, as that has been a key part that we hope will help spearhead/promote the future of online education and expanding access to free web-based educational resources for students.

Q5: Thinking about your freshman year at MIT, how has your first year of learning there informed the way you are thinking about the pandemic?

Thinking back to my freshman year while still on the campus of MIT, I learned that every moment in life is a learning experience.

The way that I think about the pandemic is that everything that we do or don’t do or did and did not do is going to teach someone something, small or big.

People are finding what they value most in life. Once we return to the normal pace of everyday life outside of social distancing, I’m assuming/hoping people will make most of their lives with those/things they cherish and partaking in activities they love or are passionate about.

The pandemic is also surfacing the issues that have existed beforehand but was not given much attention to. For example, class differences are more noticeable now than ever. As people are forced to virtualize, people are starting to notice the gap in opportunities even more. During this time, as solutions are found, I’m hoping more people will put in the effort to bridge the gap of inequality and continue to do so as things return to normal for the exemplified issue and more.

People have been continuously pitching in to help one another, fostering collaboration and proving ideas all around. I’m hoping this sort of environment will continue to spread and maintain as time goes on.

Therefore, although the pandemic has been awful, I see how it has positives that we could derive from it.

Q6: How have you been doing in these corona times and what are you doing to keep yourself well and productive?

I’ve been trying to make the most of these corona times. I like to think that I am doing pretty well all things considered.

Classes started up again this week which has been very nice. I missed the flow of school. I’m hoping to add another 3-unit class, Special Subject in Disease Transmission and Spread, to learn more about COVID-19 and of the like.

Because we were suddenly forced to leave campus during midterm season, some of my classes were forced to cancel exams/lectures/PSETs or push them off. Therefore, I have been trying to catch up and learn additional topics that were cancelled so I won’t miss key topics that I’d need for classes to follow.

I’ve also been catching up with friends and family whom I am usually unable to converse with on a daily basis. I feel like as we’re forced to stay home, people are making stronger efforts to stay connected with each other, and it has been very nice. I’ve been able to teach my cousins English every day, help my sister with her school work and my parents with our restaurant.

I’ve also been trying to learn new skills or to pick up new hobbies. I’m actually staying with a friend. We started on a 3000-piece safari jigsaw puzzle, some new TV shows, and have been baking and cooking a lot. We also follow youtube workout videos. (Sometimes, I do workout videos with my sMITe teammates through zoom). We make TikTok videos when we get bored, but, for the most part, we’ve been trying to be as productive as possible.


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