A time of need and a desire to help

May 4, 2020

Evelyn Wong ’21 returned home from campus looking to help. Wong knew that many elementary and secondary students were facing weeks of unstructured time, and many of her friends had mentored kids in college-readiness — and now had more free time themselves. On the plane from Boston to Los Angeles, she started planning a digital mentoring platform that would bring those groups together, and she asked friends from Harvard and MIT to help.

“I was thinking about a lot of the school closures in my area [in East L.A.], and equitable access to education is something that I’ve been passionate about,” said Wong, a joint concentrator in neuroscience and romance languages and literature. “This pandemic has exposed and exacerbated these inequalities, and because of that we wanted to target communities that needed help the most, whether it’s those that are undergoing housing insecurity or going through a difficult family situation.”

laptop on table

Evelyn Wong ’21 launched CovEducation, which has more than 1,500 volunteer mentors and almost 1,000 K-12 students.


Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

Wong’s group started a Google sign-up sheet for mentors, which ballooned into a Facebook group of 300 college students from across the country. Since launching as CovEducation on March 25, the group has attracted more than 1,500 volunteer mentors and almost 1,000 K‒12 students, through digital promotion and outreach by school administrations. The eight-person management team matches pairs based on interest and life experience, and the meetings take place online. CovEd leaders are also working to improve Wi-Fi access for mentees and translate materials into languages including Arabic, Hindi, Korean, Mandarin, Spanish, and Vietnamese.

“There are so many socioeconomic factors that play into these barriers that keep low-income students from getting access to elite education like this,” said Wong. Before arriving at Harvard, “I did not know anyone who had ever gone to an Ivy, and if I had [had a] mentor, it would have been a lot less scary to apply to a school like this.”

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