While almost every Hope student went home to finish their classes via remote learning beginning in late March, some also began to engage in remote teaching, too.
Since April 1, 18 Hope students have volunteered to serve as tutors for children in the Holland area, helping K-12 youngsters navigate school work now entirely sent to and completed from home. The Hope students – from various majors and academic years — have met virtually with their tutees twice a week for a half hour for more than a month. And, some will continue tutoring to the conclusion of the scholastic school year which ends in June.
The idea to connect area children with home-bound Hope students came from more than 800 miles away from Holland, Michigan. Annie Kopp, a rising junior from Lancaster, New Hampshire, and an English and communication double major, had a yearning to help during the COVID-19 crisis. At first, she just wasn’t sure how, but she was determined to figure it out.
“When this pandemic hit, one of the first things in my mind was who’s going to need more help than I need? Because right now, I’m fine. So, who can I help with what I have?” she said. “Then, I went on a walk with my mom (who is a school teacher) and we talked about helping children learn remotely. That led me to write a one-page proposal to Jane Finn (chairperson of the department of education) basically telling her what I wanted to do.”
With Finn’s help and endorsement, Kopp became acquainted with the CASA, Step Up, and Upward Bound organizations on Hope’s campus, all of which provide academic, and normally in-person, support to “at-risk” children in the Holland community. Surveys were sent to parents of children in the three programs to see who was interested and able to receive tutoring via online platforms like Google Meet or Zoom. Hope students were then sent an appeal to sign up as tutors.
“Hope College students love to serve, and we know that they wanted to serve. And not just students in the education program but any student at Hope. This was one way for them to use their gifts.”
At first, 50 Hope students said they were interested in becoming tutors. Kopp eventually paired up 18 Hope students with Holland-area kids who raised their hands for help. And since day one, she has continued to provide support, communication and enthusiasm to all involved.
“There was a yearning to give back and people did not know how at first,” and Finn. “Annie helps us find that way. Hope College students love to serve, and we know that they wanted to serve. And not just students in the education program but any student at Hope. This was one way for them to use their gifts.”
As for working with Kopp specifically, Finn has been impressed with the young woman’s fierce desire to make a difference in her college’s hometown from several states away. “I have appreciated Annie’s organization skills. She always on top of things,” said Finn. “When she first emailed me, I told her it’s going take a good amount of her time to do something like this. But she said, ‘That’s okay, I can do this.’ And she has. She’s figured out different ways to navigate and negotiate a new process. She really has been the spearhead.”
“I also think it’s good that Hope students realize that even when you are kind of in distress or don’t feel good, God always has a calling for you. There’s always someone else you can help. I think that’s important to remember.”
Kopp has a bigger hope for what she started beyond the time of COVID-19. She sees broader benefits that are more than educational; she sees them as emotional and spiritual as well.
“This could potentially bring Hope students to become regular tutors during the regular school year. So, I think that’s exciting,” Kopp says. “But I also think it’s good that Hope students realize that even when you are kind of in distress or don’t feel good, God always has a calling for you. There’s always someone else you can help. I think that’s important to remember.”