For many, the pandemic-driven shutdown of our lives has been rough. The more we stay inside, the harder it becomes to motivate oneself to do anything, let alone something to benefit the community and world beyond. Some, like myself, have been massacring sourdough starters to pass the time. Others, like the founders of the Miracle for Youth Organization, have started a grassroots organization to provide educational opportunities to underprivileged students.
By students, for students, Miracle for Youth is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that aims to inspire and educate young students by bridging societal gaps.
“We want to inspire the youth, especially the ones living in underfunded communities, with a variety of opportunities,” explains the founders of Miracle for Youth. “By providing these opportunities, they will be knowledgeable about the future and become motivated to be vocal leaders in their own communities. In these types of communities, we want to promote services to ensure that these children are not only receiving quality education but also experiencing interactive projects that allow students to engage and express their creativity.”
An ambitious and impressive project, the local students that started the program did so out of a desire to use their excess downtime for something more than idle pastimes.
“In the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), we as high school students did not think that it would become this bad,” admits the Associate Director of the Miracle for Youth Organization, Shaun Baek. “However, as soon as schools and universities closed, we all knew this was a very serious situation. With schools being closed and the transition from in person to online learning, we found that the quality of education was getting lost. Even though online school was not the same, we were well supported by the Irvine Unified School District with various technology and software and trained teachers. Since not going to school gave us a lot of free time, we decided to be productive and use this time to work hard.”
COVID-19 has indeed been rough on our students. From preschool to university, kids have been affected no matter their age. Distance learning can be difficult for many, and Miracle for Youth is stepping up to the plate to help students at risk of falling behind.
What inspired the founders to help? Communications Director for the Miracle for Youth Organization, Parsa Salahshori-A, explains: “When we did research in our beginning stages of our nonprofit, we saw the low quality of education in low income areas, so we wanted to help fill in the gaps that students are losing, especially during COVID-19. Specifically, it would have to be when I talked to my aunt who is a teacher in Santa Ana Unified School District. She told me about specific schools in Santa Ana that are dealing with these problems. She would tell me stories about many individual students who would struggle because of their home environment due to their income. Hearing those stories made me realize how privileged I am, and I wanted to do everything that I can help with this situation.”
As a completely student-run organization, Miracle for Youth faced a major learning curve whilst becoming established. Not the type to shy away from hard work, these determined students banded together to make their dream a reality.
“Being a completely student-run organization presents many challenges along with many benefits as well,” says Justin Kim, Miracle for Youth Organization Executive Director.
“Some of the disadvantages is that we have to start completely from ground-zero, meaning that we start with no budget and all the planning has to be done carefully by our team. This is because any small mistakes can come a long way and we need to address these types of issues before it turns into a bigger problem,” Kim furthers. “However, this challenge was also a motivation for our team as a passionate group of high schoolers who want to create change in our community. Instead of seeing this as a disadvantage, we were excited to work together to tackle these types of problems together. This is our biggest advantage.”
Impressively productive in a time when growth – both business and otherwise – has been stunted by an unprecedented global public health crisis, the team holds every member accountable, supporting each other and encouraging greatness.
“Our motivation mainly stems from each other, because we are always pushing each other to do better and better,” Kim tells Irvine Weekly.
On a personal level, the executive director is motivated by the results Miracle for Youth produces. “When I see so many people signing up for our tutoring service it makes me feel like we are making a difference in this world one step at a time. The road to creating this nonprofit organization was and still is not simple by any means. We run into problems, but the beauty of this organization is that we can adapt to these problems and effectively create solutions together to tackle any obstacle that comes our way, which motivates us. The type of commitment that is given by everyone also motivates us to aim bigger and impact even more lives,” he says.
As a new nonprofit, the Miracle for Youth Organization’s goals go beyond ensuring students get the support and education they need during school shutdowns.
“Ultimately, our main goal for Miracle for Youth is to provide additional resources for students in underfunded communities,” explains Nara Park, Miracle for Youth Organization Marketing Director.
“Miracle for Youth is hoping to combat issues such as lack of technology and give new opportunities to meet the students’ demands,” Park shares. “We are hoping to launch a new system once COVID-19 passes to implement new ideas that will help to accomplish our goal of helping the education system in economically challenged districts. In the future, we hope to grow Miracle for Youth even more and help students around the world.”
Tutoring services for elementary students were recently implemented. Students have applied for assistance from all over the country, from states such as California, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey and Georgia.
“We are the tutors and overseers of the tutoring program,” says Baek. “We [also] have volunteers from all across the country that signed up to become a tutor.”
All volunteers go through a rigorous background check through interviews and virtual orientations to ensure tutoring session quality.
Miracle for Youth is supported by an advisory board that assists in curriculum creation. This board consists of university students from Cornell University, NYU, UCLA, Rice University, and other similarly impressive institutions.
In addition to one-on-one tutoring sessions, they will also offer mini-lectures.
“Mini-lectures will be about engaging a student’s creativity at a young age. Apart from just lectures where students have to sit around thinking about when the class is going to end, we wanted to take a creative approach to teaching. We decided to create engaging activities that allow the student to conduct hands-on experiments or simulations to help create a fun learning experience for them,” explains Kim.
“For example, in English, instead of learning grammar lessons, we will create thought-provoking discussions about short stories and challenge students to come up with solutions to problems,” he furthers. “On the other hand, in science, students will be assigned to bring small items that will be easily found in their house to build objects and engage their engineering minds.”
Students in need can contact the organization on their website, via email, or through social media. Their website includes a form that students may fill out to join the program for specific subjects in the humanities or STEM, as well as ask for homework help. Specific questions about the organization can contact the founders by email.
Want to assist their cause? Miracle for Youth says that you can help by spreading the word about their program, or by donating through their website. “Funds will be directly used to support underfunded education systems and also be spent on our organization to create unique projects for communities as well,” says Kim.
Miracle for Youth couldn’t have come at a better time, as many students and families are struggling to keep up with the workload of virtual learning.
“The pandemic has definitely changed the education system as a whole,” agrees Park. “Students and teachers have been adjusting the curriculum for online distance learning, affecting the general standards. Teachers have had to adjust the grading system as well as certain lessons for more independence and availability. Unfortunately, many students do not have these necessary resources or have ended the school year completely.”
Hoping to get families the learning resources they need to keep kids in school, engaged and encouraged, Miracle for Youth is steadfast in their dedication to supporting fellow students.
“Our age doesn’t defy our abilities and as cliche as it sounds, the sky is not our limit as we want to be inspirations to communities around us,” ends Kim.
We can’t wait to see what they do!