OCCE tutoring program helps K-12 students

The Office of Civic and Community Engagement’s tutoring program benefits local Winston-Salem students


The OCCE’s tutoring program pairs Wake Forest tutors with Forsyth K-12 students.

Maddie Sayre, Contributing Writer

Wake Forest was one of the first universities in the U.S. to establish a virtual tutoring program when schools first closed in March 2020 as a result of COVID-19.

As the program developed throughout the year, assistant director of Community Partnerships, Camry Wilborn, has used it as a model for other universities, like North Carolina State University, University of Central Florida and St. Norbert College, where administrators are seeking to organize programs similar to Wake Forest’s.

Wilborn believes the program has not only supported students in regard to their academic learning, but has also served as an aid to parents.

“When our district moved to remote instruction, there was not a lot of assistance for parents,” Wilborn said. “They really did feel isolated and needed a lot of support and so this is one of the few programs that was offered early on to students in our district.”

When Wake Forest’s virtual tutoring program was first launched, it stated its commitment to serve students regardless of their economic status.

“One of the interesting things about virtual tutoring is that we don’t have any requirements for families that want to receive a tutor,” Wilborn said. “A lot of free programs in the city require you to meet a particular income threshold, or they require your child to attend a particular school.”

As a result of this commitment, the virtual tutoring program serves a wide spectrum of students, including those who attend private schools and lower-income Title-I schools.

The initiative was directed by the Office of Civic and Community Engagement two weeks after schools moved to remote instruction in order to offer support to elementary through high school students in the Forsyth County community. Since the program launched last spring, 752 families have been matched with an undergraduate, graduate or medical student virtual tutor.

Hannah Bulman, 36, is the mother of second-grade student Jacob. He has received tutoring through Wake Forest’s program for nearly a year.

“He’s definitely made so much growth this year in his reading. If we hadn’t had this tutoring program, he would just be so far behind,” Bulman said. “Virtual school is just a whole other ballgame.”

Although the virtual aspect of tutoring is beneficial to parents who would usually have to take time off of work or transport their students, tutoring remotely has raised other challenges for students with learning disabilities, like Jacob.

“With him being dyslexic, it was really hard for him to add another element of constantly using a screen and typing,” Bulman said.

Since the beginning of the spring semester, 287 students have been matched with a virtual tutor. Wake Forest University tutors meet approximately an hour per week with their assigned student through an online platform like Zoom or Facetime.

Jenna Mayer, a Wake Forest senior and elementary education major, became a virtual tutor last spring and has been tutoring Jacob over Zoom. Replicating strategies online to help students with dyslexia has become a new challenge to Mayer, adding an element of creativity to her role as a tutor.

“I definitely have some level of experience in the curriculum, but I will say my experience, tutoring a student with dyslexia, has greatly increased my knowledge of specific reading instructional strategies,” Mayer said.

The program’s impacts are evident. Mayer believes that the virtual tutoring program is one of the best ways a Wake Forest student can serve the community while learning remotely.

“I think it’s an incredible way for students who do tend to stay in that Wake bubble to have the opportunity to connect with the greater community without even having to leave the bubble,” she said.

Similarly to Mayer, Wake Forest sophomore Jessica Mark is majoring in elementary education and believes the tutoring program not only complements her aspirations to become a teacher, but also provides an opportunity to give back to her community.

“I just really wanted to use this program to reach out and help kids who were feeling isolated during this time,” Mark said. “I wanted to help them not only with their classes but also with whatever they’re dealing with, and give them reasons to laugh and smile.”

Parents are grateful for the program and continue to refer Wake Forest’s tutors to those who may benefit from the service while schools continue to operate remotely.

“I just hope that they will continue the tutoring,” Bulman said. “I think it will really help just enhance learning if they can continue. I’m just really grateful for it.”