Tutorfly stretches its wings

Courtesy of Tutorfly
Tutorfly, a tutoring startup founded by a Homestead High alumnus, recently hosted a monthlong coding camp for local students.

Taylor Garcia, sixth-grader at Graham Middle School in Mountain View, loves animals. She wanted to build a website dedicated to ending puppy mills, but she didn’t know how. So when her mom told her about a monthlong coding camp, she was in.

“I was like, ‘Yeah, sign me up,”’ Taylor said.

The coding camp is the latest brainchild of a company created by Los Altos native and Homestead High alumnus Parsa Rezvani.

Rezvani created Tutorfly because he wanted to provide peer-to-peer tutoring at his former high school and other schools. Now, the Los Angeles-based startup has tutors at more than 300 high schools and universities across the state. The company is rooted in his peer-to-peer model: Tutors are students who have recently taken the course a fellow student is looking for help in, so they know the curriculum and sometimes even the teachers’ quirks. Baked into the company’s mission is a desire to serve families of all income levels.

“We’re doing a good job of alleviating the pain of expensive tutoring for middle-income families, but we really want to help lower-income families that can’t afford to even pay $25 per hour for tutoring,” Rezvani said.

As part of that mission, Tutorfly partnered with different organizations to provide two coding camps in the fall. The camp that Taylor participated in took place at Homestead High and was a joint venture between Tutorfly and Mindspark: Mindspark supplied the curriculum for the camp and Tutorfly provided the tutors and oversight.

The curriculum consisted of the basics of building a website, start to finish. Taylor learned HTML and CSS – she’d already taken coding classes after school at her elementary school, but the website-building tools were new to her.

With any growth comes growing pains – Rezvani said the camp ended up with fewer participants than expected. Initially the company planned to have 20 paying students attend the camp and 10 students attend for free, but they eventually decided to make the camp free for all and afterward ask families for a donation.

Approximately 10 students consistently attended the camp at Homestead. During the same time, Tutorfly held a similar camp in Southern California that had approximately 30 students regularly attending. Rezvani said they learned that getting community input in advance of the camp is important – parent-teacher organizations were helpful in spreading the word about the Southern California camp. Timing matters, too – in the survey parents filled out after the camp, they said a 7-9 p.m. camp time was too late for their kids.

Like any startup, Tutorfly will keep iterating. The kids who attended camp last fall walked away with a working knowledge of how to build a website, which instructor Diya Aggarwal said she was proud of.

“Most people came in with no previous knowledge, so that feels rewarding,” she said.

For more information, visit tutorfly.org.

This too shall pass: Handling students first-year college challenges

While much energy is spent on the college admissions process and the focus on getting in, as important is staying, graduating and getting out.

More than 36 percent of all four-year college students transfer out of their first university, half of those to a community college. While challenging academics play a small part, it is often the executive functioning skills and adjustment to being away from home that are the big culprits impacting both mental health and grades.

MVHS marching band, wind ensemble to perform in London

Courtesy of Jason Kneebone
Mountain View High School’s marching band is heading to London this week to perform in the city’s New Year’s Day Parade.

With more than 10,000 performers, a street audience of more than 650,000 and a television audience exceeding 600 million, the annual London New Year’s Day Parade is a dream event to perform in for many musicians. That dream will became a reality for Mountain View High School’s marching band in January.

“The New Year’s Day Parade is just one of the events you know exists but never imagine that you will be performing in,” drum major Stephanie Evanson said. “I’m excited to share our music with a different part of the world and play with my friends in a different country.”

Bullis gets OK for new Mountain View charter

The Mountain View Whisman School District Board of Trustees Dec. 21 grudgingly approved a petition to charter a new school in the district proposed by members of the Bullis Charter School community. The new school, Bullis Mountain View, is set to open in the 2019-2020 school year.

CENG students take on schoolwide Hour of Code

In the first week of December, thousands of schools across the country participated in the Hour of Code, a coding initiative designed to expose students to computer science.

Local teacher's stories evolve into book

 Devik Schreiner
Courtesy of Devik Schreiner
Devik Schreiner signs copies of “The Oregon Story,” his latest novel, at his book launch at Gardner Bullis School Dec. 1.

Gardner Bullis School teacher Devik Schreiner’s penchant for making up stories has led to a second career as an author.

Schreiner started telling stories to students in his social studies and language arts classes early in his career, prompted by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

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