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Incoming first-years start tutoring service, help students during school closures

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If you have a younger sibling or neighbor who is struggling with coursework during school closures, a group of incoming Duke students may be able to help. 

A group of Early Decision students from the Class of 2024 formed a tutoring service called Twenty-Four Tutoring, supporting K-12 students academically while schools are out of session due to COVID-19. Since the organization formed in March, it has grown to serve at least 50 students in more than 10 different countries, according to its website.

The idea for the organization stemmed from incoming student Zoe Ali’s desire to help students at her own high school.

“I decided to bring it to our big Duke ‘24 group chat and asked if anyone wanted to help out,” said Ali, a high school senior from Baton Rouge, La. 

The first person to take notice of her message was Kartik Chamarti, a rising first-year from Houston, Texas. Ali and Chamarti then formulated a plan and presented it to the early decision group chat, this time garnering responses from several interested classmates.

“The [early decision] students hopped on quickly,” said Andrew Owens, an incoming student from Durham. “In 24 hours we went from seven people to 55.”

The service now has 88 tutors, the majority of whom are early decision students. Owens said that some Regular Decision students expressed interest in the organization prior to the release of admissions decisions March 26, but involvement was “nowhere near the level of early decision students.” The organization plans to recruit more regular decision students once they have committed to Duke.

Ali, Chamarti, Owens and nine other people form the leadership team of the tutoring service. The primary responsibilities of this group include establishing guidelines, matching tutors to tutees and handling communications and logistics.

“Julia and I joke that the name ‘Twenty-Four Tutoring’ is about more than just the year 2024. It’s also about the 24 hours we spend on it every day,” said Sophia Leeman of Charlotte, N.C. She and her sister, Julia, are both on the leadership team.

Although the management team invests a lot of time into ensuring operations run smoothly, they said that they wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything without the other members of the Class of 2024.

“It’s all about the tutors,” said Spencer Schultz, an incoming student from Yorktown, N.Y.

Josh Rubin of Gaithersburg, Md., said he was one of the first tutors to begin working with students through the organization. One particularly rewarding experience, he said, was when he saw the relief on a student’s face after he helped her through a chemistry problem set she was struggling with.

“She ended up thanking me in the end, and just informed me of how grateful she was that I was able to provide this service, and how relieved she was that something like this was available during this time, because she was very overwhelmed,” Rubin said.

The organization has even had an impact close to home. Katie Nash, an incoming student from Chattanooga, Tenn., said that her younger sister worked with one of the tutors from the Class of 2024 and that she talks about it all the time.

Sonali Sanjay of Richmond, Va., said that reading testimonials from students and parents was “heartwarming” and that the tutors were surprised by how much of an impact they have been able to make.

“I think with all these school closings, it’s brought a lot of light to what the true disparity in education actually is like now that students don’t have a brick-and-mortar classroom to go to and they have to rely on things like internet access and computer access,” Sanjay said. 

Their efforts have not gone unrecognized. Owens said that five or six organizations have reached out to request their tutoring services during the summer and the upcoming academic year. 

William Monahan of Washington, D.C., said that while the organization only has plans to continue through the pandemic, they were also looking into how to work with tutoring organizations at Duke in the future.

Despite the success of their endeavor, Sanjay said that external recognition is the least of the team’s goals. She referred to Twenty-Four Tutoring as a “passion project.” 

“None of us are in this for the resume booster to boast that we started some sort of organization during a crisis,” Sanjay said. “It’s mostly just helping out our community in the time when they needed us the most.”

The students expressed that one of the most rewarding aspects of Twenty-Four Tutoring, beyond helping the community, was forming relationships with each other. 

“If I need to be cranking out group projects until four in the morning, I know that Kartik is right there,” Owens said.

Ali said that seeing how many people were willing to help her out with the organization and other projects made her realize how great of a family her new classmates were. 

“We’re going to remain super close friends after this,” she said.

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