LIVINGSTON, NJ — In recognition of the challenges that Livingston’s youngest students will face during the start of the 2020-2021 academic year, Livingston High School (LHS) sophomores Riya Dsouza, Marianna Sassone, Tori Kelber and Haley Goodman have launched a free tutoring service for kindergarten through sixth grade students called “Smartowls Tutoring.”

From September through at least November, the student tutors will offer one-on-one homework help and supervised fun activities outdoors, with masks and social distancing.

“I already saw in spring how difficult it was for [parents] to balance their own careers and our school needs with emotional needs due to confinement and lockdown,” said Dsouza. “After it was announced that the schools would reopen only in remote capacity this fall, I felt I had to do something to make this situation better. It had to be very different from our spring experience. I was reading discussions about learning pods on my mom’s Facebook, and it seemed like a great option.”

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Dsouza explained that she decided to facilitate pods for children so that they could “learn, play and hang out with [their] trusted group in a safe and supervised environment with the help of an in-person tutor.”

As for finding other tutors to assist her in this effort, Dsouza said she knew that her “amazing friends would totally roll up their sleeves, eager to help”—and Sassone, Kelber and Goodman did not disappoint.

Within the first hour of advertising Smartowls Tutoring services, the four teens received more than 50 registrations, but has since dropped to a more manageable 30-to-35 students due to the reopening of other local daycare centers.

They are now in the process of recruiting other LHS students to join their growing roster of tutors, which Dsouza said currently includes local teens with an impressive mix of skills and a broad range of work experience such as “counselors in training, camp counselors, lifeguards, reading buddies at the town library and tutors.”

“They are a great group of young and energetic teens who are eager to bring some peace into this chaos by bringing this opportunity to everyone in our community,” she said.

Smartowls Tutoring is currently offering assistance in math, science, history, writing, reading and English while also providing social opportunities through arts and crafts activities, board games, backyard games and playground fun for those in need of peer interaction.

All services are being held outdoors in the backyards of two of the founders’ Livingston homes with strict adhesion to COVID-19 safety protocol, including masks, social distancing and proper sanitization.

Dsouza noted that Smartowls services may continue past November if parents are amenable to Zoom tutoring and student tutors are available to assist.

LHS students interested in tutoring should contact Smartowls at smartowlstutoring@gmail.com for more information.

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