July 14, 2021

Enterprising UCalgary volunteers ramp up free online tutoring for struggling young students during COVID

Haskayne experience inspires growing group of students and alumni to provide one-on-one academic support. Interested to help?
UCalgary students and alumni give back by supporting young students during the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all individuals and has been especially difficult for students.

A group of UCalgary students and alumni have come together to create a positive and impactful difference in the lives of Calgary families. Christian Alcantara, a current Bachelor of Commerce student, Melia Alcantara, BHSc’20, Sara Cho, BSc’20, and Michael Buie, BHSc’20, launched Connect Tutoring. The student-led tutoring program helps low- to middle-income families who have children in kindergarten to Grade 12. The program matches students with tutors, providing free virtual one-on-one academic help throughout the school year.

Haskayne experience benefits Connect Tutoring

Being a member of the Haskayne community and being exposed to a business mindset has helped me in a lot of ways. The professors at Haskayne, as well as my peers, help create a supportive environment and are always very encouraging,” says Christian Alcantara, a third-year Haskayne student. “Being surrounded by these kinds of people these last few years has helped me grow beyond my own comfort zone to find important, fulfilling opportunities such as Connect Tutoring. Haskayne creates a very supportive atmosphere that encourages us as students to go out and have an impact on our community.”

Alcantara is now a part of Connect Tutoring’s executive team as the treasurer. He oversees the program's finances, plans the semester and annual budget, and manages funding opportunities. Currently, he is planning a fund to provide free school supplies to some of the students, and applying for funding to cover operation costs for the next school year.

Multi-disciplinary team creates success

The founders of Connect Tutoring each had prior experience volunteering in non-profit organizations such as the Children’s Cottage, Kids Cancer Care and the Mustard Seed. After seeing the effects of the pandemic on families and students, the group came together in November 2020 and launched Connect Tutoring. “As students ourselves, we understood how difficult it was to transition to online learning. There are plenty of people out there who cannot afford tutoring or do not have access to help and the pandemic makes it worse. We wanted to help these families out,” says Melia Alcantara.

The founders of Connect Tutoring

The founders of Connect Tutoring.

The free tutoring sessions help ease some of the stress and uncertainty around studying and learning amidst a pandemic. In the 2020-2021 school year, Connect Tutoring grew their team to 25 volunteers who have dedicated over 200 hours of their time to helping students in need.

Online tutoring comes with its challenges too and it has not been easy. Sara Cho says, “The feedback and testimonials that we have received from parents have shown us that we have truly made a difference in the lives of students. This is why we want to continue with Connect Tutoring and growing our team of tutors.”

What’s next?

With the new school year just around the corner, the team is looking for more UCalgary students to join their program. They are looking to expand their team of tutors to 50. They are specifically looking for students who want to give back to the local community and who can commit to a minimum of one hour per week. To learn more about the program, visit connecttutoring.ca or contact the team at info@connecttutoring.ca.