VITAL program continues remotely

Edison Elementary School, one of the schools in the Appleton Area School District, is one of the schools collaborating with the VITAL program. Photo by Caroline Garrow

Photo by Caroline Garrow

To mitigate the spread of coronavirus, the Appleton Area School District has begun its school year exclusively virtually. Online classes began on Sep. 1 and have been operating via various Google platforms, such as Google Meets and Google Classroom, ever since. 

This online approach has caused an increase in need from the Appleton community; this need is being recognized and supported by the Volunteers in Tutoring at Lawrence (VITAL) Program. The VITAL Program is a volunteer organization run through the Access to Education Service Corps in the Center for Community Engagement and Social Change (CCE).

During Spring Term, when Lawrentians and Appleton students all made the drastic shift to remote learning, Sophie Dion-Kirschner ’20 led the charge in adapting a remote tutoring program to support the district. During spring, the CCE collaborated with faculty from St. Norbert College’s education department to administer training and guidance to volunteers.

With this remote program, 75 students were served by approximately 40 Lawrence volunteers. Looking at a fall comprised of virtual learning, junior Molly Ruffing anticipates a far greater demand for volunteers. Ruffing is the current Access to Education Program Coordinator in the CCE and oversees the VITAL Program.

With a newly renovated framework and onboarding process, the VITAL Program is able to stand on its own this year. Ruffing has utilized Dion-Kirschner’s experience from Spring Term to recognize the gaps in a remote program while also looking to the traditional VITAL Program that has been under the direction of senior Papo Morales for the past three years.

The VITAL Program has been at Lawrence for over 35 years and has continued to strive in the face of a global pandemic. The program has already received over 20 requests from the Appleton community and is eager to begin matching tutors with tutees.

In the past, tutors and their tutees have met in the Seeley G. Mudd Library for tutoring. This year, as all volunteering through the CCE is virtual to comply with Lawrence regulations, tutoring sessions will occur via Zoom or Google Meets.

Matches generally meet one to two times per week for approximately 30 minutes. In this age of “Zoom fatigue,” though, matches will need to learn to adapt to this platform by remaining engaged in different ways or scheduling shorter tutoring sessions to prevent distraction.

Any Appleton student can receive VITAL Tutoring, but the program is especially geared towards supporting those who would otherwise be unable to have access to academic support. VITAL considers providing academic support to all members of the community to be especially important during this time, as families experience increases in unemployment, illness and isolation.

Lawrence students can apply to be a VITAL tutor at and will have to complete a short onboarding process in order to become matched with a tutee. This includes a background check required by the school district to ensure the safety of all those involved. Contact with any questions.