With a total of 21 sites and approximately 200 student mentors, BUILD is a collective and communal effort dependent on everyone involved in the program. In response to the current COVID-19 pandemic, BUILD has worked effortlessly to continue providing remote resources and support for mentors and students in Berkeley and Oakland Unified School Districts.
Vy Huynh is a Molecular Environmental Biology major and a mentor (and soon-to-be Co-Director) at John Muir Elementary. She explains that this transition has been difficult, nevertheless she’s been able to continue pursuing her academic goals by holding herself accountable and establishing a daily routine. Huynh admits that one challenge she’s encountered is not having access to a desk or the same working environment she had in Berkeley. While Huynh patiently waited for a new desk to arrive at her home in Rosemead, California, she relied on working on her bed or floor to complete school work. Since then, she’s been able to better acclimate by purchasing a desk and, over time, becoming used to the outside noise at her home. During the pandemic, Huynh has extended her role as a mentor by advocating for her scholars’ education. Huynh has spent countless hours producing mini lesson plans in English and Vietnamese, as well as researching resources for students and mentors to seek during this time.
Unfortunately, despite creating and making these resources known, Huynh knows that not all parents have the same time to sit down and spend time practicing literacy with their children. “My role as a mentor now is so much more important,” Huynh said. “Without a proper [school] structure, it’s very hard to keep up with the standards at school. That’s why it’s important for me to help students continue to have one thing that is similar to their routine at school. Just two 30-minute sessions a week is going to help them feel like everything is just a little more normal.” When asked about the potential impact of COVID-19 on the education system, Huynh says that she believes that the pandemic will create an even larger education gap than currently exists. “With COVID-19, areas and schools with better funding are able to continue teaching with adequate computers to give out to students,” Huynh said. “ On the other hand, schools that do not have enough resources will not be able to provide students with the proper resources to help them continue to learn. Even if these students continue to move up grade levels, it may be harder for them to keep up. This is especially going to harm the students from Kindergarten to 2nd grade. These grades are the most important developmental stages in education. Because COVID-19 is [impacting this] it may be hard [for] these children in the future.”
Nevertheless, Huynh still believes that the current situation may result in something positive by highlighting the need for more adequate funding and resources for Oakland and Berkeley schools. May 15th, 2020 marks the last day of BUILD’s Spring Semester, however, the program will continue to support students remotely during the summer from July 1 through mid-August.