Diablo sisters Isabella and Aria Capelli and Lafayette resident Carolyn Considine have joined forces to the Meaningful Teens project to help provide virtual English lessons to ESL learners.
Launched in April, Meaningful Teens allows teenagers to volunteer their time to help youth develop their English skills through one-on-one virtual sessions. This, they explained, is especially important for youth whose English speaking skills may decline during school closures due to the lack of a traditional classroom setting. By offering free educational programs, they hope to combat the lack of remote ESL resources.
Isabella Capelli noted that they use regular Zoom sessions, typically with over 50 ESL learners and 60 volunteers, to connect volunteers and students. “We use breakout rooms to do one-on-one learning with retired, credentialed teachers who supervise the sessions as they move from breakout room to breakout room,” she explained.
The students partnered with organizations including Project Libertad, CrossOver, and Achieve Academy. Isabella Capelli explained that these are some of the few volunteer organizations that do not require volunteers to be above the age of 18; as a result, “we partnered with them so that other teenagers our age could also have a meaningful volunteering experience.”
Considine agreed, noting that “these organizations need more volunteers to serve all their students, and we’re able to serve as a connector to help them get more volunteers.”
The lack of opportunities for teenagers was precisely what led the students to starting Meaningful Teens in the first place.
“About a year ago,” Considine explained, “we were looking for opportunities to do more meaningful volunteer work near us. We were having trouble because it was difficult to find positions open to teenagers; we eventually found an opportunity to teach English to low-income housing seniors at Casa Montego in Walnut Creek.”
After developing strong connections with this group of seniors, Considine and the Capellis wanted to continue meeting with them when COVID-19 struck. “We moved to Zoom, and once we had mastered the breakout rooms, we figured other teens were also searching for meaningful volunteerism opportunities that they could pursue virtually,” Considine stated.
With over 170 English language learners being helped and volunteers from the Bay Area and throughout the US, the project is continuing to expand. Most recently, they have launched Project Ying Wen to teach English to elementary-age children in China and Project Step Up in Texas.
More information about their various programs in different countries and opportunities to volunteer with them can be found at meaningfulteens.org.