By: Maria Trifas (CC '21)
“We both got home from Columbia, and as we talked to friends over FaceTime and Houseparty, we realized how much free time everybody now had during quarantine. There was this underlying lack of purpose, and we were all itching to be useful. At the same time, we’re both in SEAS and had first-hand experience of the difficult transition to online classes. So, we could only imagine how hard this new learning format was for younger students. We realized that we could solve a small sect of this problem by becoming a solution to help younger students. It was important to us that there would be no financial barrier, and that we would take care of all of the logistics. So, if somebody wanted help or wanted to give help, whether a student or tutor, that they could immediately get involved.
It started out as an experiment, as we tried to see if we could really help some middle school children. We had 25-30 friends who worked with us to help put it together, doing outreach nationwide. We took a regional approach to spreading the word to students, reaching out to nearby schools from Brooklyn to the Bronx, as well as school systems in Texas and Virginia. We jumped from organization to organization and went on local news stations in LA and Boston to spread our outreach to students. Wherever we found parents who were struggling, we tried to reach out to them and offer flypaper as a service for their kids. We wanted to make sure that we were helping those who really needed it, and so we also went to hospitals in New York to offer our support to the kids of frontline workers. We had a sense of purpose and a reason to get up every day during quarantine to make a difference and help these families.
Then, it just kept growing. We quickly realized how big of an impact flypaper could have for young students. We have college students from universities across the country who have volunteered to tutor, and middle-school tutees in a majority of the states. In total, we’ve completed over1500 hours of tutoring through the end of the school year, with hundreds of families on the site within 7-8 weeks of launching at the beginning of April. We found that kids needed support in different ways, even if it just meant the one-on-one engagement with another person. One mother told us that she had never seen her kid excited about learning, but after flypaper’s tutoring, he had a spark in his eyes to learn and engaged with a dusty science book that he’d never even picked up before.
We built the original site on a more basic platform, but then it started quickly expanding. For us, when we see problems, we’re immediately driven to fix them. So, we didn’t see the high demand as a problem, but instead worked to provide for it. Now, we have a team of developers and are working with hackathons across the country to build upon our capacity.
Early on, it was clear that we didn’t take the idea of kids’ education lightly; we wanted the students to get as much as they could from the academic help and mentorship. We wanted to build on kids’ interests and have them lead their own learning projects, with the help of tutors. After starting flypaper, we’re learning so much about different aspects of education that we didn’t think of before: what effective learning is, what engages kids, the difference between schooling and learning. Now, we’re doing a deep dive into understanding what those mean, and then making our future decisions based off of that. We want to continue to be helpful in a mindful way.”
To learn more about flypaper tutors, visit their website, or follow them on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. They are temporarily pausing their tutoring services in order to plan ways to conscientiously grow and continue improving their platform to positively impact the learning of more students.