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Learning in Action at the University of Virginia

Volunteering During COVID-19

Kathryn Gayhart and Heather Tebbenhoff

Can mentoring and tutoring programs still make an impact during a pandemic? These local nonprofits have shown that they can. Although their work looks different this fall, these organizations have found creative ways to continue making a difference in the Charlottesville community.

Rise Together

Zoom screenshot of Rise Together leadership teamRise Together, a nonprofit mentoring program, trains teams of University of Virginia students to serve as mentors and college advisers to first-generation, low-income college-bound K-12 students. Our goal is to reduce disparities in postsecondary attainment by ensuring students have the support, mentors, and opportunities necessary to take charge of their education and life.

Fall 2020 looked different for Rise Together. UVA mentors were flexible and adaptable, so we launched three virtual programs in response to the transition to virtual learning:

  1. Walton Middle School AVID mentoring: Teams of UVA mentors supported Walton’s seventh and eighth grade AVID classes by planning and implementing social-emotional lessons. Mentors created video lessons, then led students through activities and discussions on topics including: self-care, social-comparison, perspective-taking, leadership skills, and more.
  2. YMCA mentoring: UVA mentoring teams planned and implemented activities for the YMCA first-second grade after-school program. Activities included writing cards to veterans, brainstorming random acts of kindness, and more.
  3. High School Senior College Mentoring: UVA mentoring teams worked 3-on-1 with high school seniors to provide college essay brainstorming and feedback, college readiness support, social-emotional support, and scholarship/ financial aid guidance.

Email Kathryn Gayhart at kjg3uc@virginia.edu to get involved with programming!

Literacy Volunteers of Charlottesville/Albemarle

Literacy volunteer speaking to a student via ZoomLiteracy Volunteers of Charlottesville/Albemarle utilizes the power of community volunteers to provide reading, writing, and English language instruction to adults living in Charlottesville and the surrounding counties. We annually serve 450 students with the help of 400 volunteers. Volunteers commit to providing approximately eight hours of instruction to students each month over the course of a year.

As with other organizations and individuals, we changed our operations due to the pandemic. While the limitations on in-person instruction created many challenges, other program areas flourished. Technology and virtual instruction allowed us to reach more people in multiple ways.

We’re doing all that we can to help provide technological support to both students and tutors. Ongoing volunteer professional development training ensures that our volunteers feel comfortable with new technology and teaching virtually. Computers in our office were outfitted with webcams for student/tutor use. We implemented other technologies to improve communications with students, like a new texting service and YouTube channel of short, instructional videos. Keeping everyone engaged has been our main goal throughout the pandemic.

Two literacy volunteers with masksNew volunteer training is now offered monthly via Zoom. We encourage anyone interested in making a difference to visit our website to learn more at https://literacyforall.org/tutors