Bridging the educational gap: Harrisites participate in WAVE Learning Festival

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COVID-19 has put a halt to many internships and opportunities. However, despite the limitations, several Townsend Harris alumni and students have taken initiative in pursuing their endeavors through Wave Learning Festival, a free online learning community offering unconventional courses with the goal of bridging the gap between educational inequities magnified by COVID-19. 

Class of 2020 alumni Esther Chai, Neeharika Kotimreddy, Annie Lin, Class of 2018 alumna Ilyssa Reyes, and rising junior Sonia Hasko participated in Wave, teaching courses of their own interests. Rising seniors Bushra Islam and Katie Sie also participated, moderating the calls. 

Ilyssa said she hoped to give high school students an opportunity to learn about economics and business, and instructed a course titled “Wall Street 101: Economics.” She explained, “Many students go into a business major blindly, having only taken 1-2 classes max, and some schools don’t even offer and econ classes.” Since this course was “lecture heavy,” she made efforts to engage the students with discussion questions and current events. In addition to leading this course, Ilyssa hosts special one-on-one workshops on investment and guides her students through the college process. 

Neeharika, who taught the course “Accepted or Rejected? Tackling College Admissions,” said, “I’ve never… taught anything before and I’ve always been a student, but it was refreshing to experience the other side. As someone who struggled with the college process, I wanted to make sure other students had a better and more successful experience while applying to college.”

Esther taught the course “Intro to Epidemiology: Disease Distribution and Determinants,” feeling as though it was a fitting topic for students to learn about public health studies given the current pandemic. “During the pandemic, educational inequalities would have been further exacerbated for students across the world and I wanted to contribute to a mission whose goals aligned with mine,” she said. Esther prepared her lessons, aiming to make her class “as interactive and engaging as possible” since she found it difficult to “[make] sure that students were actively paying attention because most of the students’ cameras were off.”

Annie and Sonia taught the course “Who Did It? Forensic Analysis and Culprit Identification,” focusing on chemistry and biology in forensic applications. “I found out about Wave through Esther and I decided to teach this subject because Forensics was my favorite event in SciOly. I figured other students might also be intrigued by the science that went into solving mysteries,” Annie said. “I learned about the interests of students all over the world. Being able to interact with people in NY, California, and the Philippines all at once was incredible,” Sonia commented.

Annie also co-leads the press and written media team, reaching out to radio stations, newspaper publications, and television programs. “It took me some time to adjust to the position, but it forced me to take charge instead of waiting for directions. I was able to branch out and work closely with the members from other teams,” she said. “I ensure we are represented the right way, and that our story gets told over and over to reach a wider audience.”

Katie and Bushra made sure that classes went smoothly for both the instructors and the students and worked to avoid issues such as spamming in chats and ‘Zoombombing.’ “I saw how Wave, an organization established by college students a few years older than me, had made an impact on students all around the world,” Katie said. “I ended up applying to be on the video media team, where I met some amazing people who, like me, want to use filmmaking to reach out to more students worldwide.”

“Regardless of whether you’re interested in being a student or a teacher, Wave Learning Festival is definitely the way to go. No matter what position you hold, you’re bound to learn something along the way, whether it’s new knowledge, new skills, or new strengths,” Annie concluded. 

Photo courtesy of Annie Lin and The Wave Learning Festival