January 14, 2021

With her mentor's support, Gigi overcomes virtual learning challenges

Audrey helps Gigi navigate language and technology barriers

Gigi* is six years old and in first grade, and she has always loved to go to school. Gigi is so fun-loving and kind that it is easy for her to make new friends. She thrives in a group setting, although her schoolwork is difficult, and she has a hard time keeping up with her classmates academically.

When COVID-19 shut down all of the schools in Washington state, Gigi suffered greatly. Her caregivers work hard during the day to provide a stable life for Gigi. Although Gigi’s caregivers can speak enough English to communicate, they are unable to read in English. This made it hard for them to have an opportunity to learn how to use a computer. With the shift to online learning, Gigi was unable to attend classes. Even though she received a computer from her school, she and her caregivers didn’t have the skills necessary to log on and participate.

Once professional mentor Audrey realized Gigi couldn’t participate in school, she tried to explain how to use the computer. They made progress, but it wasn’t enough to get Gigi logged on. For safety reasons, Audrey couldn’t go to Gigi’s house to support her family in-person, so Gigi didn’t attend class from March through June. This was very upsetting to Gigi, her caregivers, and Audrey.

Although Gigi wasn’t attending class, she was dedicated to completing her homework packets every week. Gigi’s caregivers would call Audrey on the phone, and they would spell out every word in each problem in Gigi’s work packets. Audrey would write down the information and then explain each assignment to Gigi over the phone.

Audrey knew this wasn’t a long-term solution to the problem, so she didn’t give up. Audrey knew there was a chance that when school resumed in the fall, it would be online. Audrey went to work. She created color-coded documents with detailed step-by-step instructions on how to use a computer. Audrey delivered the notes and walked Gigi and her caregivers through the process. It was long. It was hard. But every week, Audrey was committed to supporting them in any way she could.

As restrictions eased, Audrey sat in Gigi’s front yard to help her feel capable using her computer. Determined to attend summer school, and ultimately participate in regular classes once they resumed in the fall, Gigi and her caregivers soaked in every direction Audrey gave them. Eventually, Gigi was able to participate in her summer school classes consistently. And despite everyone’s worry that Gigi would fall behind in her work, Gigi’s teacher reported that Gigi was ready for first grade.

School is in full swing, and Gigi is submitting her homework on time and attending class daily. Audrey is very proud of Gigi’s perseverance and hard work. And Gigi is also very proud of herself!

*Name changed to protect youth's privacy.