Student-run Keystone organization allows for virtual tutoring and mentoring

With educational institutions shutting down across the nation due to COVID-19 and nearly half a semester’s worth of content to cover, many students are struggling to keep up with their education and maintain their mental health. To tackle these concerns, juniors Iris Leung and Renee Mok founded Keystone Mentorship, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that provides academic and peer support for Miller Middle School students during these times of crisis.

Leung and Mok created Keystone on March 28, in a response to the unique dilemma resulting from the recent transition to online schooling. Keystone functions differently from traditional tutoring organizations in that its mentors provide not only academic help but also mental support and advice from their own experiences. 

“Our mission is basically to help mentees get better acclimated to their future high school so they enter high school comfortably,” Mok said. “If mentees are building relationships with people who go to their future high school, it’s easier for them to get settled in.” 

Because of the personal nature of the program, it is important that mentors and mentees are compatible and comfortable with each other. To find the most suitable matches, both parties fill out a form expressing their academic abilities as well as personal interests. The information is later used to pair mentees with mentors that match their needs, and both parties are sent an email instructing them to begin contacting each other to schedule sessions. 

“A typical session lasts around an hour and we mainly discuss some sort of academic material as well as talk about life in general,” junior mentor Michael Yang said. “My tutee is trying to get ahead of the game so he’s learning some geometry right now to prep for next year.”

In order to ensure professionalism and the safety of the young mentees, all virtual meetings are recorded and sent to the Director of Communications, Zoe Parkomamovsky, who reviews the videos.   

“For safety purposes we have a contract, saying that only our core leadership team,  especially our Director of Communications, will have access to the recording, because it is a privacy concern,” Mok said. 

Currently, mentorship positions are open to all Lynbrook students except freshmen. Mentees must be current CUSD middle school students. Any student who wishes to apply to become a mentor or mentee can apply through Keystone’s website.

While Keystone’s initial goal was to bridge the gap between Lynbrook and Miller students, they now provide mentorship services to all CUSD students. Keystone has also begun partnering with Elevate the Future, another 501(c)3 nonprofit which provides students with resources to explore their passions as well as future career avenues. Though Keystone was initially inspired to address issues students faced in remote learning, the organization has future plans to create partnerships and expand across the district and state.

“We are a hundred percent planning to make Keystone permanent after COVID-19 is over,” Parkomamovsky said. “The program will probably continue to remain online, because it’s a really easy way for everyone to have access, and it ensures safety as well.” 

Ultimately, Keystone’s goal is to support middle school students both academically and socially in their transition to high school by fostering relationships between mentors and mentees.

“It’s a really big change, and some students don’t have siblings or other friends who have been in high school and can give them that advice,” said Mok. “I really just want to make this resource easily accessible for them, so they go into high school feeling comfortable.”