COVID offers alumna chance to give back

NATASHA YOUNG, Features Editor

Difficulties with online learning may cause some students to feel lost and confused; however, one former Spartan’s project has found a way to lend a helping hand. 

Evelyn Wong, Spartan Class of 2017 and current senior at Harvard University, double majoring in Neuroscience and Romance Languages and Literature, began her most recent project, CovEd.org, in March to provide academic support in a wide range of subjects to K-12 students who were, like her, forced into distance learning.

“I took a class in the fall called ‘Equity and Excellence in American K-12 Education, and that was in the back of my mind,” says Wong. “As I was flying back home [after Harvard closed down], I was hearing a lot about the school closures. MUSD. LAUSD. A bunch of really large school districts.”

So Wong reached out to her friends at Harvard and MIT to start a networking support project.

The seeds of this educational service were initially planted when Harvard announced its own closure – campus housing in Boston was closing down, and Wong was scrambling to find a place to stay. As a first-generation college student, Wong explained that she connected with many other first-generation students who had difficulties paying for flights back home, finding a place to store their belongings and finding a place to stay. 

Although she eventually was able to fly home, Wong realized that the struggles among students like her were not limited to college campuses, and this networking concept might be helpful in a broader application.

As founder and CEO of CovEducation, now a federally recognized educational non-profit, Wong attributes its success to the thousands of students, families, and educators involved in their nationwide effort. 

“This was originally an informal initiative that grew into a huge team effort, so I’m not the only one doing this,” Wong says. “A bunch of people came up to us and said, ‘I have this idea on how to reach more communities in need,’ or ‘I want to start a similar movement,’ and my team says, ‘Okay, let us know how we can support you in doing that.’” This open source approach to their organization has spurred similar movements, including a national mentorship program for undocumented students, and CovEd India, a branch of their organization led by university students overseas.

What started as a group of friends grew into a much larger venture. CovEd now offers one-on-one mentoring, outreach teams that connect with educators, school administrators, and government officials; career fairs, college application workshops, and more. Their community has grown to over 4,400 mentors from 425 colleges, reaching nearly 3,500 mentees, and has over 110,000 visits to its webpage. The project was recognized by the Clinton Foundation and received a $4,500 grant funding their commitment to action.

Despite all Wong’s adventures through college and CEO life, she has not forgotten the people who helped lay the foundations of her thinking. “My cross-country coach, Coach Q – Manuel Quintero – said, ‘Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard,’ and that’s sort of been my philosophy,” says Wong. “Even if you’re the underdog, if you keep an iron will amid skepticism and unfavorable odds, you’ll see that you have a lot of power to effect change.”

Another life-long influence began even before Wong was a Spartan. In 2019, Alan Lee, a science teacher from Wong’s days at Macy Intermediate, was killed in a car crash. However, Lee’s kindness left a great impact on his students.

“Mr. Lee was one of the coolest mentors ever, and he was so kind to every student that he ever met,” says Wong. “That is something I try to channel whenever I work with students or lead a class at the university as a teaching fellow.”

Kindness, and being helpful for the sake of being helpful is the foundation of CovEd.org, assisting students and families, and sprouting the beauty of knowledge and the ability to share it.

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