Children of Steel (COS), a student-led club that pairs SSA Senior School students with Country Day and Junior School students for weekly Zoom tutoring and enrichment sessions, successfully wrapped up its first full school year after starting midway through the 2020-2021 year.
The SSA Children of Steel student leadership board consists of junior Wesley Dillon, president and founder; junior Logan Starta, vice president; junior Dani Strauss, social media director; senior Rohan Anand, events coordinator; and junior Tommy Certo, statistics coordinator. Student tutors included seniors Alexandra Demchak, Ericson Kimbel, Tiffany Wu and Madison Zunder, juniors Joey Bellinotti, Maila Davis, Delaney Mulderig, Bree Murphy and Ben Myerburg, and sophomore Jinny Guo.
In 2021-2022 the 15 Senior School students above worked with 11 CDS and JS students in grades PK-5 on a weekly basis. Families could sign up for tutoring and enrichment sessions on either Tuesday or Thursday evenings, with Dillon running one session and Starta running the other. In each session, kids and tutors start in the same Zoom room for a welcome before being assigned to breakout rooms for one-on-one work. Tutors work with children on whatever the parent requests - helping with homework, practicing spelling words, reading together, or doing enrichment work in an area where the child excels. At the end of each session, the tutors and kids come back together in the main Zoom room to play a game and say goodbye.
If a child is resistant to participate, Dillon says the tutors try to make learning fun. "It's always very helpful to create a game out of it. Sometimes if we have kids in similar grades, we will put them in a room together and give them math facts and have them face off or create a simple point system that makes it more fun and gives them the motivation to do it."
The SSA chapter of COS was founded in the winter of 2020-2021 by Dillon, then a sophomore, who was inspired by her friend Jennifer Lin. Lin founded the first Children of Steel chapter at Pittsburgh Taylor Allderdice High School in 2020 in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, when many younger kids were struggling to adapt to online learning.
"I texted her and was like, this seems really cool, I'd be super interested in growing your idea and founding it at my school," said Dillon. "So I talked to her about it, and we got a blueprint down, and then we got Mr. [Dawson] Haytock, my advisor, to sponsor the club here at SSA."
Getting the club off the ground involved a lot of work, including recruiting tutors, reaching out to Country Day and Junior School heads and teachers to spread the word, sending flyers home to lower school parents, coordinating scheduling and more. One of the earliest challenges was ensuring all of the tutors had the necessary clearances, which can take several hours to complete.
Several other area high schools have started Children of Steel chapters as well, and Dillon, Lin and the other chapter leaders meet weekly on Zoom to share plans, ideas and strategies for success.
Next year, Dillon hopes to see the COS program at SSA grow even more. "I feel like we definitely want to get more kids and more tutors and just grow every aspect of the program. This year we have predominantly upperclass tutors, so next year we hope to get more underclassmen as tutors and on the leadership board too."
Students who are interested in joining COS for 2022-2023 can reach out to Dillon or any of the returning board members, or visit the COS table at the Senior School Club Fair in the fall. Or follow @ssathechildrenofsteel on Instagram.
Congratulations to Wesley and the entire COS team on a successful year!