BEVERLY, MA — Amanda Desmond remembers how trying it could be even in more familiar times.
The Beverly High alumna recalls sitting down following a long day of school, attempting to work her way through her nightly assignments, when mom and dad would try to help.
“I have (post-traumatic stress) from my childhood sitting at my kitchen table with my parents trying to figure out my math homework,” the University of Massachusetts sophomore told Patch.
Throw in the stresses of remote and hybrid learning — amid the greater disruption of a coronavirus health crisis heading into a seventh month of physical distancing and social restrictions — and Desmond can imagine how this year is almost certainly more difficult than ever for young Beverly students and their families.
So, she and three other Beverly High students or recent graduates decided to do something to try to help their community this fall through the 3 Square Virtual After School Program. The program, organized through the Beverly Recreation Department, is a remote, after school program designed to set up high school volunteers to assist elementary school students with crafts, games and homework online from 4 to 5 p.m. up to four days a week.
“It’s just to help in the community,” Desmond said. “With COVID, it’s been a hard time on everybody. If we can help parents through occupying them for an hour — allow them to cook dinner, or whatever. Just to see that we’re giving back in some way in this really hard time is really rewarding.”
Desmond, who is attending UMass remotely this fall, is helping run the program, along Beverly alumna and University of Southern Maine student Molly Pierce, Beverly High student Charlie Mack and Beverly alumna Ella Colten, who plans to attend UMass after taking a year off from school.
Desmond said Colten and Mack were working as counselors with the Beverly Recreation this summer when they had the idea to continue some type of program into the fall, and solicited help from Desmond and Pierce. Desmond said she and Colten have worked on projects together in the past, while Pierce is studying early-childhood education.
“It’s important because, obviously, these early years of education are really important for kids and things are different this year with remote and hybrid learning,” said Desmond, an economics major in Amherst. “While this is an after school program that is online too, I think the socialization they do get, and help with homework, will help make it easier for them.”
The program is open to Beverly students in kindergarten through fourth grade. The initial interest was so strong Desmond said they sought more volunteers from Beverly High School through Beverly Recreation, with 55 students at the school offering to volunteer in some way.
“Definitely not,” she said of whether the quartet thought the program would be so big so fast. “It definitely has grown to be a lot more than we originally thought. We had this little idea of ‘let’s do this thing for these kids after school’ and it really took off.
“We quickly realized we are going to need a lot more than the four of us.”
Desmond said the “tricky” thing now is coordinating schedules for all the volunteers and finding a secure platform for the program that is set to begin on Oct. 5. Flyers were sent out this week to elementary school parents informing them of the program with information on a sign-up sheet and weekly activities.
Parents interested are asked to contact [email protected].
Desmond said the program is meant to allow the young students to “drop in” whenever they and their parents or guardians would like, with each grade likely getting a different session. The key now is to make sure there are enough volunteers online for however many elementary students are looking to use 3 Square on a given day.
“Beverly High School has always been a really good support system for student projects,” Desmond said. “I think this says a lot about the Beverly High students that there has been this much interest in volunteering for this.
“I am really excited for this to get going. I think kids will really enjoy it.”
This article originally appeared on the Beverly Patch