‘I’m actually making a difference’ — Students serving students through free tutoring

Clark County high schoolers create Youth Hand in Hand program for their peers

CLARK COUNTY — In the pandemic world, school looks drastically different, but if you ask the Youth Hand in Hand (YHIH) team, learning new skills is as exhilarating as ever.

The team is composed of high school and college students from across Clark County, who have one common goal: giving back. Together, they offer free tutoring and online courses to the students of the area. 

The Youth Hand in Hand team is seen here during a board meeting over Zoom. Photo courtesy YHIH
The Youth Hand in Hand team is seen here during a board meeting over Zoom. Photo courtesy YHIH

“I didn’t know there were teams, like other people in the community, and I just feel so much better for having joined it,” said YHIH Battle Ground Representative Ellie Durgarian. “I feel like I’m actually making a difference. Being younger, you know, I can’t vote. Maybe I have social media, but I don’t have a lot of connections. I don’t feel like I have a huge impact. But at least now I am helping my community whenever I can.”

YHIH is a nonprofit organization run by students, for students. Using donations and a buy-back textbook program for funding, the team has already offered several courses and tutoring options over the Summer 2020 term.

Now, enrollment is open for the Fall 2020, with eight speciality courses available and personalized tutoring. Everything from robotics, to coding in Python, to cartooning, to SAT Prep is available. 

Founder Spencer Chang, a student at Mountain View High School, began creating connections earlier this year to build a network of student tutors and teachers to create his idea. One of those students was Susan Hong, who then, in turn, brought Durgarian to the team as well.

“I just want to tell people out there to not be afraid to ask for help,” Hong said. “During these times especially, everybody’s going to need help at some point in their life. It’s better to get it sooner rather than later. Take a look at everything and think to yourself, ‘What do I need right now?’ We’re here for everyone in the community.”

Graphic courtesy YHIH
Graphic courtesy YHIH

The group has representatives in multiple cities across the county, including Camas, Vancouver and Battle Ground. Many students during the summer term were middle schoolers, Hong and Durgarian said, but there is no age limit.

Durgarian explained that even adults with extra time have been taking the cartooning course, since the program is free to anyone to participate. 

“For me, the last couple months of last school year were really hard,” Durgarian said. “Everyone was kind of disorganized, we didn’t know what was happening. So it just felt like, really difficult to do things. So I started taking summer classes, and it kind of helped me add structure.”

Durgarian is a sophomore in high school and currently taking courses at Clark College. She mentioned how interesting it has been to see older students at the college have to learn new technology skills that many of the younger students have had to master since day one. 

Through the tutoring program, Durgarian and Hong have been able to impart skills for using new technology as well. Through Zoom and creative activities, the two taught a National History Day course over the summer. Before the pandemic, they went to nationals for the National History Day competition together.

“I think overall, every single one of our classes combined together have reached as many as 350 people,” Hong said. “I find that kind of amazing to think about, because when we’re teaching, like personally, it’s on a small scale. But then if you look we have so many other people doing the same thing as us, and it just sort of amplifies into this pretty big impact.” 

Durgarian also spoke to how important she believes the environment is for students. With the change to at-home learning, it can be quite difficult to be motivated and seek out help when you need it, she said. 

Both Hong and Durgarian said they appreciate their teachers very much, but felt they can only help so much and go so far. When a fellow student can explain something to you, it can often open it up in a new way, they both said. 

Chang and his team are actively seeking out new student tutors and people to teach the free-online courses. The hope is to build the next generation of tutors and keep this organization alive in the years to come, Durgarian said.  

To partner with Youth Hand in Hand, you can visit their website and go to the donate option. There is also a page dedicated to textbook buy-backs which goes to support students. For updates on programming and tutors, visit them on Instagram and Facebook