Videos Help High School Mentors Stay Connected, Earn Service Hours

As a student tutor, Cate Goglia misses her face-to-face interaction with Dallas ISD elementary schoolers. So she wanted to find a new way to touch their hearts and minds.

The Hockaday School sophomore is part of a network of area high school students that visited weekly with youngsters at 27 campuses through United to Learn, a nonprofit focused on literacy and community activation in Dallas public schools.

But all that changed when schools closed in March, prompting Goglia and some of her Hockaday classmates to move their efforts online. The teenagers started creating short videos, targeted to younger children, which were both informative and entertaining. In many cases, the teens could still accumulate campus-mandated service hours in the process.

“You’re still looking for a way to connect with those kids. There’s all of these little kids now who have a bunch of time on their hands. We wanted to be able to give them a safe and trusted resource.”

Cate Goglia, Hockaday School sophomore

Goglia’s team began curating and uploading the videos to YouTube. Some involved reading books, while others covered science and art. From sports to careers to even magic tricks, the idea is to share what you know and have fun doing it.

“We didn’t want to limit the subjects too much. We’ve been getting all kinds of videos,’ she said. “We saw this gap. Parents didn’t have time to be with their kids 24/7, and the schools can only do so much. We wanted to make sure they have more resources.”

Within the first month, the YouTube channel had almost 200 completed videos. United to Learn sends weekly email updates to campus principals and school counselors to help spread the word.

“It started by reading to students and has kind of grown from there,” said Katherine Tagtmeier, chief programs officer for United to Learn. “Schools are really embracing it, too. They’re making it a classroom experience.”

Building on the positive feedback, Goglia would like to keep broadening the network of student mentors and amateur videographers. And the online effort can continue once school is back in session, too.

“We can see it growing and always being an option for kids to engage in that way,” Tagtmeier said. “Many of the students are doing it because they’re intrinsically motivated. For students who need hours, it’s a way to be engaged and do it in a safe place at home.”

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