Experience: The Founders

March 2020: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic school closures were on the horizon as most of the city had already gone into quarantine. As each small business and enterprise shut down one by one, the fear and anxiety only escalated. As students, we empathized. Simply the prospect of a locked down daily life was terrifying enough to inflict hysteria among the people, which urged us to take immediate action. Thus, a product of our routinely late-night contemplation was created - The Learning Bridge (TLB) was founded in hopes of maintaining solidarity within the community. We set-up a premature website and started promoting the

project between our family and friends, which attracted an audience, solidifying the pertinence of this project. As the organization grew through social media and word of mouth, we developed a structure, appointing executives, and managing large groups of people. Despite minimal experience in management at such a scale, we have found the process to be predominantly smooth and encouraging, thanks to our wonderful team. We have now implemented several measures to ensure that the experience for both-- our mentors and students-- is productive and exciting. Our goal initially was to provide a platform to consistently uphold education during such times for the students of the community, we have now come to realize the importance that it holds for the mentors as well. TLB has become one of the few volunteer opportunities for students in grades 10-12 that is accessible online through the pandemic, creating incentive for the youth to become active in the community. Reading feedback forms, we often hear from our tutors the bonds that they have developed with their students, and how tutoring them has been a learning experience for them as well.

It has now been over two months since TLB was founded and with the phenomenal team of over 50 tutors and 80 students we are beyond excited to anticipate the growth in the future. The network of tutors that we have created has truly been the highlight of the entire process. These driven individuals have not only made this organization thrive, they have also demonstrated leadership skills in times of need. Our tutors have a network of other mentors they are connected to at all times in case of any concerns/brainstorming/resource requirements, etc. Each time a mentor offers a proposal for an initiative, we feel accomplished to have created a space for youth expression and growth. Now, with over 5 programs-- all youth run, we are consistently providing opportunity for our students to flourish and remain engaged and informed. While initially TLB was targeted towards the local community of South Surrey, it has since grown to a national audience, as well as some international members! Since, our roles have also been transformed from tutors and curators to now mainly working in admin and supervision. The growth and the process of development has been ecstatic for us. Testing out the waters in such a novel field did come with its challenges, yet the result has always been worth the struggles.

From - Esther Zhang & Stuti Sharma

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