Online Mentoring


Meera Hatangadi, Staff Writer 

It all started when senior Jieon Kim decided to spend her summer doing volunteer work. Kim discovered an organization called Leaders United for Change (LUC), a non-profit organization that currently provides free mentoring services to over 250 elementary and middle school students all over the world. The organization consists of qualified high school mentors who tutor student mentees primarily in math and English.
While the organization provides its services internationally, consisting of 10 branches serving students all over the US, and even foreign countries such as Colombia and Korea, Kim decided to start a branch in Irvine and extend these opportunities to its residents.
“I’ve always enjoyed volunteer services, especially mentoring-related services,” said Kim. “During quarantine, when not many opportunities were available anymore, LUC seemed like a place to continue making an impact.”
Kim was especially interested in starting a chapter in Irvine as she saw the immense help that these mentoring services were providing to English learners in their international branches. In the city of Irvine, where diversity is abundant and there is a vast number of English learning immigrants, Kim wished for a safe space for young students to hone their scholarly skills and seek any additional help they may need. She wanted to help reach students in need in Irvine; especially English learners.
“I truly believe that organizations like LUC are of high value to the community,” Kim said. “Many passionate students are often placed at disadvantages due to their inability to access personal academic help, and several language barriers, and LUC gives a chance for such students to interact with equally-passionate mentors to gain not only academic but also emotional aid.”
However, as Kim slowly built up her branch, she faced obstacles along the way, one of which was adapting to mentoring through an online format. As a student who participated in peer mentoring for much of her high school career, Kim, and other mentors, were unaccustomed to the disconnect facilitated by their screens.
“When I first joined, we were still somewhat disorganized and clueless as to how to operate through Zoom,” explained Kim. “Expanding the organization, creating events for students, and even setting up the weekly mentoring sessions were all very difficult.”
Nonetheless, Kim continued to put in her effort to continue building up her branch and getting more of her peers involved. Along the way, she continued to recruit new members, including junior Joyce Shi.
“I learned about LUC when one of my friends introduced it to me,” Shi said. “I joined because I felt it was important for students to get the extra help they need, and I wanted to be a part of that.”
Along the way, Shi had gotten more out of this organization than simply mentoring experience. Through LUC, she had found a community of UHS students who share her passion for mentoring. In meeting with her peers via zoom every Saturday for their mentoring sessions, Shi has had the opportunity to spend time with her fellow mentor and mentees and has gotten to know them better.
“In my experience at LUC, I’ve made friends along the way and have gained lots of experience working with kids and my peers in a spontaneous environment,” said Shi.
Similarly, Kim has also been motivated by creating this sense of community; and has taken actions to further build it. “To further create a sense of community, LUC would hold holiday bonding events, during which mentors and mentees would get together on zoom, get to know each other, play games, and celebrate the holiday season,” said Kim.
These events allowed mentors and mentees to further bond and familiarize themselves with each other, fostering the creation of friendships and new connections. Furthermore, by working with her club members to mentor students and plan events, Kim herself has become much more familiar with many of her peers.
Kim explained that she prefers to call her members “mentors” rather than “tutors,” as she hopes that they gain a higher sense of community with those in her branch. She wants them to truly understand the students who they mentor and create real connections with the other students in the organization.
Under her leadership, Kim has managed to grow the Irvine branch of LUC to over 30 mentors who attend mentoring sessions nearly every Saturday to assist students in school, language, and with general advice.
“Hopefully, LUC is of use to students eager to learn. Our organization has recently completed 7000 hours of mentoring.” Kim said. “It’s a joyful feeling to know that there are mentors and students around the world that await for the Saturday mentoring sessions to come.”