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Newton South student creates virtual tutoring program to help families during pandemic

Newton South High School students, Simran Khatri, Arshia Verma and Shona Goodkin, volunteer students at Project Community Giving. Photo courtesy of Arshia Verma.Handout

To help parents and their school-age kids deal with education during the pandemic, Arshia Verma, a rising sophomore at Newton South High School, founded Project Community Giving, made up of high school students who provide virtual, one-on-one tutoring services and free classes to children up to eighth grade.

When schools closed in March to fight the spread of COVID-19, students, teachers and families in Newton had to quickly adjust to online learning. Many parents, especially of young children, grew overwhelmed and frustrated having to assist their children’s learning on top of their daily responsibilities.

“This whole pandemic has been a rough time for so many people,” Verma said. “There’s so many families and kids who have felt more suffocated, I guess, and more vulnerable with their education.”


The struggles hit close to home, she said.

“I have a little sister, and she’s always running around the house and my parents are doing meetings,” she said. “It’s hard to focus on my education, as well as, you know, focusing on what’s going on in the atmosphere around my house.”

Verma said Project Community Giving is donating 50 percent of all profits from tutoring to organizations such as the Greater Boston Food Bank, Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund, and Project Bread.

“Our project is killing two birds with one stone,” Verma said.

After she set up a website and advertised Project Community Giving with the help of her school’s vice principal and teachers, Verma said she received a “flood of messages” from overwhelmed parents including health care workers.

“I realized at this moment that this could be the stepping stone to something big,” she said.

Aside from tutoring in subjects such as math and programming, Verma said, Project Community Giving also provides free, weekly group classes in arts and crafts, singing and Zumba, among other things.


One of the project’s tutors, Simran Khatri, also a rising sophomore at Newton South, said she was eager to join and work with younger students to “transfer something they like into something that is interesting for them to learn, especially during the summer.”

Verma and her team plan to continue tutoring even after the pandemic. Verma said the objective is to eventually transition tutoring sessions from online to in-person. Eventually, she said, they plan to redirect the donations to organizations supporting future issues that might arise in Newton and around the world as well.

Shona Goodkin, who is a tutor for public speaking for the project, said young people being able to use their voices right now is “more important than ever.”

“I want kids to be speaking up and not just being a passive ally.” she said. “If they can really stand out and be active and use their voice to spread their message — that’s kind of what it’s all about for me.”

Mariana Pivatelli can be reached at