Students Giving Back

Family Engagement Director Lisbeth Oscuvilca Rodriguez Highlights How the UnidosNow Tutoring Program Is Making a Difference

by Sandy Chase

During this pandemic, Future Leaders Academy Barancik Scholars (FLA) alumni and other college students have dedicated their time to help foster the UnidosNow mission of educating its youth—as scholars are giving back so others aren’t left behind. Other volunteers, like retired teachers, have also answered the call.

Lisbeth has been an insightful, compassionate advocate—meeting individual academic and psychological needs of those who need it most. A consummate educator, she’s passionate about education and empowerment. Tapping into her creativity and significant experiences as an educational director in her native Peru and the United States, Lisbeth continues to create opportunities for Latino children and their families.

UnidosNow Executive Director Luz Corcuera says, “Lisbeth is an educator who understands that every student is unique and needs a guiding hand.”

Luz highlights Lisbeth’s role: “Helping to implement tutoring to support our young students as they transitioned to online instruction was critical.  She effectively paired younger classmen with senior students—a successful way to benefit both.”

Read about Lisbeth’s story here and the following interview, and you’ll understand why the UnidosNow tutoring program is making a difference as scholars are giving back so no one is left behind.

Who originated the program? 

After spring break, the school lockdown forced students to have full-time online classes. Many children couldn’t adapt quickly, and their parents couldn’t help because they lack or have limited technology literacy. Others didn’t have time because of their jobs and other commitments.

After the first week of online classes, our parents of elementary and middle school children contacted us for academic support for their children. Our Future Leaders Academy of Girls (FLAG) and Future Leaders Academy for Middle Schoolers (FLAM) needed our assistance immediately—prompting us to implement a tutoring program to support our families.

What are the program goals?

We want to make sure that our students continue to develop critical skills during this time of uncertainly—and after.

It’s most important to provide support in the areas where students need to overcome challenges like demotivation, lack of understanding of online assignments, and completing and submitting homework. We don’t want our students to fall behind academically or be affected emotionally.

Will you be continuing the program once school begins?

Yes, we’ll start at the beginning of the school year. Our current FLA Barancik Scholars are getting ready to tutor our young students for the upcoming school year.

What challenges have you faced? Students? Tutors?

Working with elementary-school students has been challenging for two reasons:

  • They weren’t used to studying or working on their own. They quickly fell behind, and some of them needed more than one or two sessions per week.
  • Because parents aren’t technology savvy, we first needed to teach them how to use Zoom, for instance, before tutoring our students.

Tutors found it challenging:

  • To make sure that students were on time for their online sessions because there was no bell or teacher to remind them “to get” to their classes.
  • To teach some subjects like math or writing because tutors aren’t able to see student progress so easily.

The following quotes highlight successful experiences for volunteers and young students:

Tutor Daisy Mendoza, a FLA alum and psychology major at Florida Gulf Coast University, says, “The experience was pretty good! I was able to connect with Jennifer, and we got along really well.

Daisy wasn’t sure what to expect when she first signed up, but she’s happy to have been able to get the experience. “I would be willing to do this again!”

Xena Meneses was recruited by FLA alumni Liam Ordonez (Cornell Class of 2023), another summer tutor.
“I enjoyed tutoring students online,” says Xena, a biology attending Florida State University, “because they were always enthusiastic about attending my sessions. I got to learn a lot more about individual students and was able to help them with homework or just listen to something new they were trying out.”

According to FLAG student, Melany Rodriguez: “I don’t feel behind anymore. I am doing better at school.”

FLAM student, Keira Monter says, “I’m doing well. I needed help and had someone to talk to.”

Parents are also very appreciative. Claudia Ortiz is indebted to the program:

“Definitivamente excelente ayuda y apoyo para los chicos, en lo personal mi hija Kitzia está encantada con la tutoría que recibe de parte de Denny Lu y yo como mamá se lo agradezco de corazón. Gracias, UnidosNow and Denny Lu.”

“Definitely excellent help and support for the children. Personally, Kitzia is thrilled with the tutoring she receives from Denny Lu.  And as a mother, I’m really thankful from the bottom of my heart.  I thank you, UnidosNow, and Denny Lu.”

Look for upcoming interviews with FLA alumni Liam Ordonez and Denny Lu, founder of the nonprofit Your Advance, which partners with UnidosNow.