Local student launches virtual tutoring service

A local student is looking to expand her virtual tutoring company.

A Bishop’s School sophomore started a free, online tutoring company to help students as they adjust to virtual instruction in their regular schooling.

“We wanted to help them out,” said Shirley Xu, 14, founder and president of the Volunteer Tutors Organization. “That’s how I founded VTO and I wanted to expand it to all types of students, including underprivileged students, as well as all kinds of academic and extracurricular subjects.”

Tutoring and other forms of elearning have been in demand since the COVID-19 pandemic closed classrooms all over the country. Most districts are still working out their plans for distance learning in the new school year. The risks for low-income students, such as whether they will be more likely to fall behind without everyday classroom instruction, have been discussed for months.

Since launching in mid-March, Shirley said the company has 70 tutors from across the country and branches in New York and Vancouver (British Columbia), in addition to the San Diego headquarters. Tutors use Zoom and Skype to meet with students.

“I think it’s been going pretty great,” Shirley said. “For the one-on-one tutoring branch, we’ve gotten quite a few solid pairs that are continuing to go along and that don’t need much help, so I think it’s been pretty successful.”

In addition to one-on-one tutoring, Volunteer Tutors launched a summer camp for students in grades 1 to 8 that accumulated more than 160 registrants in the first 12 hours after it was announced to the public. The two-week camp included sessions on reading, writing, math, art and music.

She added that the company enlists high school students who are comfortable teaching certain subjects as tutors. “Exceptional middle school students” are also eligible to become instructors, according to the company’s website. An application to become a tutor is available on the Volunteer Tutors Organization website.

“For the most part, we don’t try to exclude tutors,” Shirley said.

Shirley also said some of her future goals for the company are to become better known within the local community, and to expand geographically to help more students, including those in low-income areas.

“San Diego is the headquarters,” Shirley said. “It’s the biggest location that we have right now. I have other branch directors that I want to work with to continue expanding the organization throughout the country.”

The company is using GoFundMe to try to collect $1,000. For more information on Volunteer Tutors Organization and the services it offers, visit volunteer-tutors.org or volunteer_tutors on Instagram.