By LILY TINOCO | Reporter
Amid a global health and increasing education crisis, Huntington resident Daniel Halper wanted to offer students across Los Angeles academic support.
He launched Step Up Tutoring last year with a goal to help close the education gap.
Halper, a recent Stanford University graduate, said he studied product design but has always had an interest in education and through different programs, he has enjoyed working with students from low-income and underserved communities.
“I’ve always had a big interest in closing the education gap, trying to improve the lives of children,” he said to the Palisadian-Post. “I’ve lived a very privileged life … I went to Village School, I went to Brentwood High School … in my time working in underserved communities and schools, I’ve seen a drastic difference between my educational experience and what these students are getting.
“I think it’s important to give them the educational footing that allows them to get to the next level and go to college.”
He said the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated the existing education crisis and he needed to get involved.
“I had a lot of time, I had a lot of passion for it,” he said.
Thus, Step Up Tutoring was born.
Step Up Tutoring’s mission is to extend free online tutoring for families who cannot afford a private tutor. Volunteer tutors provide personalized instruction, mentorship and emotional support for students who need it.
When campuses across Los Angeles closed in March 2020 to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, students were sent home with a remote learning plan. Students of LA Unified School District were equipped with technology and internet connection necessary for distance learning—Halper said these efforts helped set Step Up Tutoring up for success.
“The pandemic was the perfect time for an online program like this to really work,” he said.
Step Up Tutoring launched its pilot program at the start of the academic school year in August 2020. Now the initiative has a five-year contract with LAUSD.
The program is currently working with students from Title I schools—schools with high numbers or percentages of students from low-income families that receive financial assistance to help them meet academic standards.
“As some children are able to continue to learn because their schools have the resources to adjust instruction, many students are struggling,” according to the organization’s website. “This disparity among schools disproportionately affects minorities and students from lower income families. Not only are these students struggling to learn important material, but many also are not getting the social interaction they need to grow … without these vital skills on which to build, students will be harmed academically and socially.”
A growing success, Step Up Tutoring received over 1,000 tutor applications by the end of the fall semester last year. Tutors must be at least 16 years old, agree to a fingerprinting background check and have internet access. Halper said he would love for Palisadians to get involved.
“I think they would do great,” he said. “Many people in the community are very educated, they have the knowledge to help support students as a mentor—not only as a tutor—and help get them where they are and be successful.”
Step Up Tutoring requires interested teachers to opt into the program. By doing so, their students can subsequently apply for tutoring. Students with teachers who have not opted in are currently unable to apply.
“We’re continually expanding, adding new teachers every day,” Halper said.
Once a tutor and student have been paired, they meet on Zoom for at least two hours per week.
Producer of the television series “Homeland” and author Howard Gordon said being a tutor has been as rewarding as it has been challenging.
“LAUSD students and teachers have been shouldering an outsize burden for a long time, and the pandemic has only brought that into sharper relief,” Gordon said to the Post. “Step Up is a real-world, hands-on opportunity for LA citizens interested in bridging the widening education gap in our city.”
Halper said Step Up Tutoring plans to expand to other districts in the future.
“We have huge visions for the future,” he shared. “We want to be across the country.”
For more information, visit stepuptutoring.org.
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