Lehigh students tutor Bethlehem Area School District students during homework club last year. This year, Lehigh’s Community Service Office homework club program is held virtually. (Courtesy of Lehigh University)

Community Service Office offers virtual homework help for local students

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Lehigh’s Community Service Office’s homework club program has made virtual accommodations for students amid the pandemic. 

Lehigh students have fostered a relationship with the Bethlehem Area School District, working to provide local students with homework help and tutoring services. 

The homework club is available for students who attend Fountain Hill Elementary School, Donegan Elementary School and Broughal Middle School.

Due to the pandemic, the Community Service Office’s operations are now conducted virtually, allowing elementary and middle school students to still receive the extra help and support they need from Lehigh paid and volunteer tutors. 

Gaby Montes, ‘20, ‘21G, oversees the office’s tutoring program and homework club. She said students are able to access pre-recorded videos that go over topics from homework assignments in addition to other subjects requested by students. 

She also said, however, it is hard to gauge how often students are using the videos on the platforms. 

Montes said limited synchronous office hours are offered through Zoom for homework help. Students can bring their homework assignments and share their screens in breakout rooms with the tutors. 

“In terms of the homework club aspect, there are only 20 to 30 students enrolled, but the biggest benefit from it being virtual is that every student has access to it,” Montes said.

Jon Leight, ‘23, is a community service officer who is not currently living on campus but is contributing virtually from home.

“Communication and planning in general gets a little harder when nobody is on campus, and our only source of communication is on Zoom,” Leight said.

Caroline Mierzwa, ‘23, a sophomore student coordinator, said her biggest priority is keeping the Bethlehem community safe. 

When engaging with the Bethlehem community, Community Service Office tutors want to make sure they don’t put anyone they’re working with at risk.

Mierzwa said in a normal year, tutors would work with students at their school’s homework club after school. Given this year’s constraints, however, tutors have had to create videos with various lessons. 

Virtual instruction comes with a set of challenges that the Lehigh tutors and Bethlehem students alike have encountered.

“The challenge is trying to keep that connection with Lehigh students and the elementary and middle school students at Broghal and Donegan,” Mierzwa said.

She said another challenge has been trying to spread the word about the Community Service Office to interested Lehigh students. 

Due to the inability to hold events on campus, the office does not have as much interaction with students who are interested in exploring the different areas of community service within Lehigh.

“Typically we have events where students can sign up, but because we don’t have that, a lot of the first-year students don’t know that the Community Service Office exists, so trying to reach out to that demographic on campus is important,” Mierzwa said.“We are working through these challenges.” 

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