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College student creates free tutoring service for kids of frontline workers

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Posted at 3:23 PM, Jan 22, 2021

Finding an answer can be a challenge when the path to it is through a screen.

“I don’t get help from my teachers as much as I did in school," said 5th-grader Dylan Higginbotham.

For Higginbotham’s mom, the answer to how to learn virtually is just as hard to find.

“It’s pretty tough. It’s hard for them to sit in front of the computer so many times a day," said Kimberly Higginbotham.

Since the start of the pandemic, the responsibilities this mother has carried have been more than most.

"I work with cancer patients, so that doesn’t stop just because of the pandemic," she explained.

Parenting and working on the frontlines of this pandemic are jobs that don't run on business hours.

"Going to work, not always working 9 to 5, coming home, and having to do your household duties and making sure your children are not falling behind in school," said social worker Teisha Davis, whose daughter, Ryan, is in 7th grade and also has been learning virtually in this pandemic.

Virtual learning is a challenge for students at all levels. When coronavirus forced Brett Mozarsky's senior year online, he realized the challenges of virtual learning went beyond his school. He attends Haverford College located outside Philadelphia.

"I could only really imagine how it must have felt to be a high school student or a middle school student who could no longer attend class in person," Mozarsky said.

As the pandemic set in, he decided to offer help to those going to work each day to battle the virus on the frontlines with Free for the Frontline Tutors.

“We developed free for the frontline tutors to be able to provide a free accessible academic resource that would be online tutoring for the children of front-line workers," he said.

Mozarsky reached out to hospitals, offering the free tutoring services of his classmates at one of the most elite liberal arts colleges in the country.

"I jumped on it right away to say that I’m interested," said Kimberly Higginbotham.

Word of the tutoring program quickly spread, not just at Kimberly Higginbotham’s hospital in Washington D.C., but across the country. It forced this operation of a handful of Haverford students to grow to now having almost 100 tutors helping students.

Tutors such as Harika Dabbara, who graduated from Haverford last year, help students break through the barrier that can be a laptop.

“It’s one-on-one time so it kind of removes some of the isolation that students are feeling. They’re not just watching a video and doing an assignment," she explained.

Free for the Frontline Tutors has helped around 160 students since March. Mozarsky says they've helped students from kindergarten through high school, children of frontline workers from states across the country.

"Having this backup support from the tutors have been a godsend," Kimberly Higginbotham said.

Mozarsky plans to keep Free for the Frontline Tutors going after he graduates in the spring.

It would be easy to focus on what this pandemic took from his college experience, but instead, he's focusing on the lesson it's given him, one he might not have learned in a classroom.

“I think what tutoring has really taught me is when we can come together as a community and recognize we’re all struggling in different ways, and those struggles are significant no matter what they are, we can all come together, support each other, and move forward. In hopes of a better future," he said.