Indiana Kids program resumes full tutoring, mentoring services after pandemic hiatus

A woman points at a book as she helps a student with a study assignmentView print quality image
Indiana Kids provides free tutoring and mentoring for students in grades 6-12. Photo provided by Office of Community Engagement

The IU Indiana Kids program has consistently stepped up to meet challenges. The program, which serves over 2,600 kids in grades 6-12 statewide, provides free tutoring, mentoring and college/career readiness to students.

With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting daily life, the program is ready to meet a new challenge.

Tutoring sessions, which run for one hour, have always been offered through face-to-face instruction, on Zoom or by phone, with tutors receiving direct supervision from staff. But with the pandemic closing schools for the remainder of the year, the program had to find ways to meet the needs of students while everyone worked from home.

"Prior to the pandemic, all sessions were monitored -- tutors and mentors worked on campus with direct supervision," program manager Kayla Nunnally said. "Because of the pandemic, we had to set up tutors and mentors to work remotely while also finding a way to supervise all sessions."

The change to all-online operations meant that the new model had to be piloted for two weeks before it could be unveiled statewide. And while the program didn't necessarily close down completely, professional development was needed for tutors and mentors during the two-week period, and the administrators had to figure out a way to conduct family workshops virtually.

Perhaps the biggest challenge presented by the pandemic for the IU Indiana Kids program is the inequality of technology across the families it serves. While tutoring and mentoring have moved fully online, Nunnally admits that the setup is difficult for some families.

"The biggest challenge is the digital divide. We know that not all students have equitable access to the internet -- or even in some cases a phone that can be used to call in for sessions," Nunnally said. "Equity of opportunity is always at the forefront of our minds as we continue to develop creative ways to support students and families."

As the program fully opens, students can connect via computer, tablet or phone through Zoom. If they don't have internet access, they can connect by telephone. Once students join a Zoom meeting, they are placed into a breakout room with their tutor/mentor.

With students away from traditional classrooms, the demand for tutoring and mentoring has been even greater, but Nunnally said the feedback has been positive during this time of change.

"While we were transitioning programming into the new model, we received several inquiries regarding the availability of tutoring and mentoring support," she said. "Now that statewide programming is relaunching, we are receiving positive feedback from school and community partners as well as from IU Indiana Kids participants about their excitement to resume sessions and, for some, try them for the first time."

Services are offered Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 to 9:30 p.m. ET and Wednesdays from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Some campuses provide additional opportunities throughout the week. To learn more, visit the Indiana Kids program online.