With the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating existing inequities, volunteers are more important now than ever. Abhi Deverakonda, a biomolecular science undergraduate at NYU, volunteered with CIANA this summer. In her interview with us, she shares the impact of her virtual volunteering experience.
How did you decide to volunteer at CIANA's summer program? Did the pandemic influence your decision to volunteer with us?
Like many college students, I was sent home in March due to the pandemic. It was (and still is) a difficult time for many in the country, and I wanted to do something to help out. I wanted to do my part in making somebody else's day happier and less alone. I understood that in-person volunteering was not a probable option, so I decided to volunteer virtually. I have worked as a tutor in the past, and I enjoy working with kids, so I jumped at the opportunity to work with CIANA.
Why did you choose to tutor elementary school students?
During the pandemic, I think students of all ages felt displaced from their normal school environment. I felt that through tutoring I could help support at least one student academically or socially. I did not have a particular age group in mind going into the program, but I ended up working with an elementary school student who had newly immigrated to the US. We reviewed mathematics, reading, and writing skills taught from the grade he had just completed. Since I am a STEM major, I loved to throw in mini-science lessons that I thought would interest my student. These mini-science lessons ended up turning into a mini-STEAM lesson, as I quickly realized that my student not only loved learning about science, but drawing as well.
What has your experience working with CIANA's students been like?
I had a wonderful experience working with my student. The student I worked with was friendly and curious, which challenged me to come up with interesting lessons for every tutoring session. I think CIANA created an environment in which I was encouraged to not only get to know my student academically but also personally. I felt that as the lessons went on we became friends, which made the tutoring even more meaningful for the both of us.
What were the most memorable experiences you’ve had during the program?
At the end of the summer tutoring sessions, CIANA hosted a summer showcase event. My student and I created a "Where I am From" presentation, in which he shared some of the writings and drawings he did based on where his family was originally from. The presentation was a compilation of all the hard work he put in over the summer. It was awesome to see him share his hard work with other students and tutors and hear all the compliments they had for him.
Overall, I am very pleased with the experiences I have had with CIANA. I was fortunate to have worked with such a talented student, and from what I have seen, I am looking forward to working with the many other talented students enrolled in the program!
Thank you so much, Abhi, for your valuable contributions to CIANA over the past few months! It is amazing to see how volunteers like you derived so much meaning from a virtual tutoring experience. We are looking forward to seeing the difference you make in the students' lives in the months and years to come.