By Kristine Sorensen

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Mentoring is important to the lives of so many children in our region, but the pandemic and social distancing have made that difficult. Still, mentors are finding ways to continue helping children online.

High school students from Shadyside Academy are tutoring and mentoring elementary school students from Urban Pathways Charter School. For five years, the sessions were in person at Urban Pathways school in downtown Pittsburgh, but as soon as the pandemic hit, they transitioned to online.

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Shadyside High School senior Erin Canning has been tutoring 10-year-old Gary Phillips for a couple years. They work on English, math, and before COVID, would build robots.

“I like the math and I like to go to robots,” Gary says.

Erin adds, “Seeing them actually learn and seeing the results of us actually helping them, it’s really nice to see.”

The tutoring is needed now more than ever. Ten-year-old Aduan Brown says it’s hard having all his classes on a computer. KDKA’s Kristine Sorensen asked him, “How would you compare doing school at home to when you used to do it in person?” He replied, “I hate online school.”

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Alex Kramer says he’s also learning from Aduan in the tutoring sessions. “Some of the kids have a tough home life and stuff, so I think that sense of awareness, different backgrounds that these kids are going into, helps give me a better understanding of what they’re going through,” Alex says.

Shadyside Academy library director Lindsay Myers, who also organizes the Shadyside portion of the tutoring program, says, “When you learn more about different areas of your city, where people might not be as privileged as you are, and how you can help and support them in a way that’s benefitting that community, when you really know them, you can figure out a way to benefit and to help.”

It’s tutoring, mentoring and relationship building — whether it’s in person or virtual. Gina Marie Potter, the Urban Pathways Charter School teacher who runs that end of the program, says, “Going to school on Saturday, who wants to do that? But the fact that these kids still come, it’s because that connection is huge.”

The Mentoring Partnership of Southwestern Pennsylvania, one of the leading mentoring programs in the region, has adapted all of its training on how to be a mentor online and has trained more than 850 mentors since the pandemic began.

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Kids need mentors now more than ever, and if you’d like to learn how you can help change a child’s life as a mentor, go to Kidsburgh.org and https://www.mentoringpittsburgh.org/

Kristine Sorensen