What started as a pandemic-time volunteer project for Coronado seniors Jordan Katz and Hamzeh Hamdan last March has turned into a major initiative helping students of all ages with virtual tutoring services.
Student Tutors of El Paso, or STEP, is now a large system of more than 25 academically-successful that help students in grades third through 12th through a secure and easy website in subjects like math, science and English.
STEP services are free and open to EPISD students.
“With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting how students learned, the need for our services became more apparent, so we decided to create a program that provides these services to every student in need,” Hamdan said.
The two saw how the virtual learning increased the need for tutoring to ensure students kept up academically and knew their peer-based system could make a difference. So far, they’ve had 75 bookings in the first three weeks of school.
“With the new online learning system, many in-person tutoring options were canceled to ensure student safety,” Katz said. “This meant that parents were tasked with helping their children with their homework assignments. We found that the students respond better to help from student tutors than their parents. STEP not only assists students academically, it also take some of the burden off of parents.”
Both Katz and Hamdan are proficient in math and science — earning awards and excelling in rigorous coursework. Hamden is the co-captain of the Math Team and has earned the overall “Top Dog” academic award for his achievements in math, biology, chemistry and physics competitions. Last year, the NHS and Coronado Senior Executive Committee member scored an 8 on the American Mathematics Invitational Exam, a score achieved by only 301 juniors nationwide.
“Last year, I completed AP Calculus BC and the first year of the high level IB math class, and used this knowledge to assist as many students as possible with their struggles in math,” Hamdan said.
Katz has taken advanced STEM classes since middle school and by the end of this year will have completed every AP math and science course offered at Coronado. He’s also been the captain of the Coronado tennis team since his sophomore year and has been elected class president also since 10th grade.
“I enjoy working with students to help them grasp the subjects better by relating the task at hand to real life scenarios,” Katz said.
While the two enjoyed doing peer-to-peer tutoring themselves, they knew the need for more tutors would be crucial to the success of their venture. They developed a rigorous process for selecting tutors to continue growing their offerings and established department heads for math, science and writing to lead efforts in their respective expertise.
“Our tutor-selection process not only ensures that our tutors are academically capable of tutoring, but also that they would be able to create a comfortable and productive environment with the student,” Katz said. “While many of our students have received very rigorous academic achievements, they are all trained to ensure that every session is conducted to meet the students wants and needs.”
Katz and Hamdan see the peer-based focus made a difference for students seeking academic assistance.
“We have found that our students respond better to student tutors because our tutors are going through the same daily challenges as our students,” Hamdan said. “Many of our students seek out guidance from our tutors that extends beyond the classroom –whether it’s simple tips and tricks for getting through high school, or guidance with course selection based on their goals.”
Students interested in receiving tutoring can go to steptx.org and select the subject under the “Tutoring Options” tab.
After selecting a subject, the website displays a chart with the classes offered in that subject and a calendar for booking. Students then select a date, a time, and fill out a quick questionnaire with their name, email and topics they would like covered.
“This allows us to send them an email and ensure our tutors are ready for anything the session may bring,” Katz said.
The tutoring enterprise has inspired Katz’s desire for a career in business and he is currently researching colleges for enrollment in fall 2021.
“My work with STEP has taught me that I have a passion for business, and plan to pursue a career in the business world,” he said.
Hamdan is considering Massachusetts Institute of Technology or the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) after his 2021 high school graduation.
“I would like to enrich my understanding of technology in business to create and ensure the success of a low-cost, service-based company,” Hamdan said. “STEP has given me the great joy of giving back to my community, and where ever I end up, I will always take that with me.”