Youth Hand in Hand: Local Teens Share Skills in Free Online Summer Classes

Youth Hand in Hand: Local Teens Share Skills in Free Online Summer Classes

As a result of Clark County schools closing facilities last March to protect against the spread of COVID-19, kids are facing a learning deficit unlike anything they’ve yet experienced as young students. And the deficit is likely to grow in coming months, with many summer learning programs and camps canceled, limited or significantly modified. Stepping in to fill this gap is an ambitious group of Vancouver and Camas teens who want to share their well-rounded knowledge and skills with kids for free, through a series of classes called Youth Hand in Hand.

Spencer C., of Mountain View High School, organized Youth Hand in Hand online classes for youth by youth. Photo courtesy Spencer C.

The project is the creation of Spencer C., an upcoming junior at Mountain View High School in Vancouver, who was inspired to share his skills just after COVID-19 hit the community. “About a week after school shut down, my 10-year-old sister was bored and pestered me to teach her how to code,” he told me. “I thought other kids might be in the same boat as her.” He posted on community website NextDoor about offering a free Scratch coding class through Zoom, which prompted four local kids in grades four through six to sign up. “After the four-week course was done, the kids all thought it was a fun learning experience, and said given the chance, they would do something like that again.”

Inspired by the success of that first class, Spencer approached Mountain View English teacher and National Honor Society (NHS) advisor, Martynn Sampson, about creating an NHS sophomore project around offering more similar virtual classes to kids, and she gave her permission and support to kick it off. Next, he solicited peer support to broaden the program. “I asked a few of my friends if they would be interested in doing something meaningful for our community,” Spencer said. “Amazingly, all of them said yes.” Jack C., an upcoming sophomore at Mountain View, is one of those friends. The two boys are neighbors and fellow members of the school robotics team. “I accepted [Spencer’s invitation to join Youth Hand in Hand] because I thought it would be fun to teach classes and I wanted something for both me and other kids to do since the school year ended weirdly.”

Youth Hand in Hand teen instructors hold a group meeting. Photo courtesy of Lisa Chang.

Class subjects now include web development, cartooning, music theory, intro to biology and chemistry, math, SAT prep, and creative writing, in addition to the original Scratch coding and programming basics, including Java, taught by Jack.

The new, expanded Youth Hand in Hand classes are being offered online through Zoom, in sessions of four 40-minute weekly classes—one session in July and one session in August. Classes are completely free, but do require pre-registration and are limited to 15 students each. Some classes are already full with wait lists, others still have spots available.

Spencer sees room for growth, as more young students are now comfortable with the technology of virtual learning. And local teens who want to teach a class are welcome to join the volunteer team to share their talents with other kids.

Go here to register, to volunteer and to learn more:

Nikki Klock became co-owner and editor of Vancouver Family Magazine in September 2006. She grew up mainly in the Northwest and graduated from Utah Valley University. She is an avid reader and insists that a book is (almost) always better than a movie. She has lived in Vancouver with her husband, JR, and two daughters since 2003. Check out Nikki's Editor’s Picks here.

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