Sophomores James Hou, Eddie Qiao and Daniel Xu received California Heroes 2020 awards last month for their tutoring work with homeless children. The awards recognize what they have done for their community through volunteerism, leadership and advocacy.
They volunteer regularly with an organization in Vista called Solutions for Change (SFC). This non-profit works with homeless families, providing a 700-day residency program for families that provides a variety of services “from counseling to parenting classes to employment training to work experience” for parents. Daniel, Eddie and James have been tutoring children whose families are enrolled at SFC’s campus.
James explains their role, saying, “This program is for the children of the homeless families in San Diego who've joined the SFC campus program. Since their parents are occupied with work and training, we as tutors ensure that the children are academically and emotionally supported throughout their education. We meet weekly with each other to learn new subjects and guide them through challenging schoolwork.”
While Eddie learned about the organization from his mom, Daniel shares, “I was first introduced to SFC in an outreach event with my robotics team – we saw that the kids there were very interested in robotics, but never had much exposure to it.”
James came on board in May 2020, and notes, “During the pandemic, the homeless community was hit especially hard and I wanted to do something to help them. I discovered the SFC program which aims to break the cycle of homelessness by providing jobs for the parents and a better education for the children. I saw that it was making a large impact on the families and I joined their effort to help the children of the families.”
Pre-pandemic, the tutoring took place onsite each week; now, just as they themselves are learning on Zoom, they’re also teaching on Zoom, working with the individual students they’ve each been assigned. They’ve had to coordinate scheduling, finding resources (such as Khan Academy), or tools within Zoom itself, such as the whiteboard feature. But together with their fellow tutors and students, they are overcoming the obstacles. Daniel explains, “Every week, I meet with my student over Zoom for an hour to go over some math. Sometimes I teach her whatever she's currently doing in school; other times, we do whatever I or her family thinks she needs work on.”
“Before our sessions, I prepare and compile the materials that will be covered during our meeting. Sometimes my students encounter technical difficulties and I help them troubleshoot. During the meetings, we first teach them about the topic and then let them develop the taught skills by providing hints when answering problems. At the end, I write a summary of the sessions that is sent to the parents so that they are informed of their child's progress,” says James.
Each of the young men expressed gratitude for the recognition, but humbly see the bigger picture. Eddie remarks, “I felt really grateful for the opportunity I had to tutor these students. I definitely learned a lot from this experience, and I hope the students did too.”
“I feel honored to be recognized for my work, but I think what's more important is my opportunity to help my student, which is something I'm definitely willing to continue doing,” agrees Daniel.
James hopes others will be inspired to help, saying, “This recognition shows that we are doing the right thing to help the homeless, especially during the pandemic. However, I see more work to be done.”
Photo: L-R, James Hou '23, Edward Qiao '23, State Senator Brian W. Jones, Daniel Xu '23