K-12 Connect: Bridging Education Gaps and Creating Student Opportunities

Islay Hepburn
Mar 2, 2024 10:44:30 AM

It’s no secret that 2020 was an unprecedented time for us all, but with school closures and a quick shift to remote learning brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, students felt the brunt of it. This intense period of student adjustment led to the birth of the K-12 Connect program, an initiative brought on by Grand Valley State University.

Originating from a collaborative effort to address the pressing needs of K-12 students amidst the pandemic's disruptions, the K-12 Connect program swiftly evolved into a comprehensive platform, offering vital support to students, educators, and families across Michigan and beyond.

In 2020, GVSU’s President assembled a committee to tackle diverse community needs, with a strong emphasis on education. Among the committee members was Amirah Vosburgh, who now serves as the director of the K-12 Connect program. Amirah said that through collaborative brainstorming and active engagement with different community stakeholders, a shared vision crystallized: to offer essential support to K-12 students navigating the complexities of remote learning.

"We all put our heads together and reached out to our stakeholders to say, 'Hey, how can we support? Where's the need? What can we do by pulling our resources?' We had hundreds of folks here at Grand Valley, whether they were students, faculty, staff, or alumni, who all wanted to do something to help. Out of this, we were met with a request for tutoring; at the time, it was specifically homework help for high school students, ensuring they were able to graduate on time, whether it be that coming Spring or later down the road,” Amirah said.

Initially focused on offering virtual tutoring and homework assistance to both traditional and charter high school students, the program later expanded its scope to include a range of services and initiatives. Amirah said reading help was high on the list of K-12 Connect’s services.

“A lot of kids were coming to us needing help with reading. We had all these tutors who really had never been trained on how to teach kids to read, how to support them in that space. From there, we worked with Grand Valley’s College of Education and different reading specialists. Together, they built a framework that would work for virtual tutoring, in addition to a training series for tutors to be fully trained and work with these students on targeted reading strategies moving forward.”

In addition to targeted reading strategies, K-12 Connect continued expanding its range. They collaborated with schools to provide targeted academic support using available federal and state funding, established mentorship programs to guide high school students in career planning, and partnered with higher education institutions to help them provide more beneficial work-study programming.

The K-12 Connect program's impact extends beyond academic support, touching the lives of both students and tutors. College student tutors have found particular inspiration in the work, Amirah said, some of them even altering their career pathways after working with K-12 Connect.

“Everyone talks about the K-12 students and how we're helping them, but there's been a great impact on the college students and their journey through working with us as well. We've had a couple of students who have actually switched their majors to education after their experience working with us. At a time when there's a teacher shortage and a lot of folks are not pursuing education, that's been something that really pushes us to continue,” Amirah said.

Looking ahead, the K-12 Connect program aims to enhance its sustainability and impact by forging closer partnerships with schools and communities. The program seeks to ensure continued support for students, Amirah said, advocating for the integration of tutors into school environments and innovative approaches to tutoring curriculum.

“Every school looks a little different, every school operates a little differently, and they all have slightly different needs. So, by bringing schools into the creation and design process, we figure out a way to make this last. When all this extra funding aimed at tutoring dries up, we want to make sure schools can continue to do the work in a sustainable way.”

The K-12 Connect program stands as a testament to the transformative potential of community-driven initiatives in reshaping education. By bridging gaps, creating opportunities, and fostering a culture of support and empowerment, it continues to make a profound difference in the lives of students and educators alike.

Subscribe by Email

No Comments Yet

Let us know what you think