By: Staff Writer Gelsey Plaza
Current and former students from MSJ gave up a part of their summer to give back to the community by participating in the Head Start Head Smart or Splash! summer program. Members of the Head Start Head Smart tutoring service presented a check of $7,245 to FUSD superintendent Jim Morris on September 11. Over the past three summers, Head Start Head Smart has donated more than $18,000 from their earnings to FUSD.
Head Start Head Smart is a student-run organization that offers assistance to students in seventh through eleventh grade in math or science subject areas. MSJ alumnus, Jonathan Lu, initially created this tutoring group with a friend to help raise money for Save Fremont Students so that teachers wouldn’t have to be laid off in the wake of a budget crisis.
The Head Start Head Smart 2014 student-teachers were Julian Zhang (11), Mark Cho (alumnus), Richard Liang (alumnus), Eric Liu (11), Brian Xie (11), Austin Wu (alumnus), Rushee Nirodi (11), Rushalee Nirodi (10), Siddarth Durai (10), Sruthi Durai (11), and Brian Tseng (10). Each tutor hosted three to four students, charging $15 an hour, in their own homes. This year they worked with 30 students, compared to 24 students last year.
Since the founding of Head Start Head Smart, Lu and his peers have worked on improving their techniques by focusing on problem solving and independent learning. In regards to teaching and working with students, “It is straight up the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Lu stated. “And that’s what really makes it beautiful. So much of it is improvisation and engagement. I hope that the students came away with a better understanding not just of the material, but how to learn and approach problems.”
Last summer’s leader of Head Start Head Smart was junior Julian Zhang. On why the group decided to donate to FUSD, Julian said, “We wanted to give back to the community that we gained so many opportunities from. We couldn’t really think of a better way to do it than by teaching students and giving the money we earned back to the school district. The money will be used for new textbooks and learning resources.”
In addition to Head Start Head Smart, Jonathan Lu and his friends offered Splash!, another program in which all proceeds were given to FUSD. Their idea for Splash! stemmed from some colleges wanting to provide kids with a fun day of learning, giving students the opportunities to explore classes of their own interest. Splash! began in August 2014, with classes geared towards students in fifth though eighth grade. The 2014 Splash! student-teachers were Riyaz Merchant (alumnus), Kelvin Lu (12), Arshi Aggarwal (alumnus), Daniel Zhu (alumnus), Daniel Do (alumnus), William Bei (10), Laura Chen (12), Aaron Lin (alumnus), and Vaishnavi Dornadula (10). There were 90 students who attended, and in all, Splash! raised a net of around $600.
The student-teachers directed various subjects typically not taught in school. Among them were 3D printing, The Mind and the Brain, The Science and Cooking with the Egg, What is Sleep?, and Yoga. With the opportunity to teach their own subject, Kelvin Lu said, “It was great when we met students who were also really interested. For example, I taught a small engineering class and when it got to a building activity I did, some kids were really into it and built huge structures out of straws and tape.”
Kelvin Lu is the current official head of Splash!. According to Lu, Splash! donated to the Fremont Unified Student Store (FUSS), which would then use the money to help FUSD. Lu hopes for there to be more teachers and subjects taught next year. He would also like to start preparing sooner. That way they may introduce basic teaching skills and techniques for incoming student-teachers.
Photo Courtesy of Laura Chen