Alumnus believes community service is prescription for success

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Syed Rizvi in personal protective equipment
Rizvi at the COVID-19 testing center

When Syed Rizvi began working at Children’s Hospital as a freshman, he never imagined that he would be testing people in the midst of a global pandemic. But that is exactly what Rizvi — a recent graduate of the Wayne State College of Education — is doing.

As a clinical researcher, Rizvi has worked on various projects at the hospital for the last four years. He has evaluated the effectiveness of a shunt tube and its impact on seizures in children and investigated adult use of the emergency room. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Rizvi found himself serving in a different role.

“Because the emergency room at Children’s Hospital doesn't have many COVID-19 patients, administrators wanted to make sure that as many available resources as possible were being used to combat the virus,” Rizvi said. “I have been a member of the DMC Children's emergency department, and when they asked us to sign up to join DMC's emergency response team and administer COVID-19 tests, I volunteered.”

Rizvi started working at the former Michigan State Fair Grounds in March, a week after the drive-thru testing center opened.

“Administering the test is mentally and physically exhausting,” he said. “The hours are long, you are on your feet for extended periods of time and you are wearing full-on gear. I worked the first two weeks, then got time off to rest.”

However, during his time off, Rizvi did not take it easy. In between studying for classes, the former honors kinesiology student — who was also the college’s Student Senate representative and a member of the Student Education Council — focused his energy on responding to another community need: providing educational support to parents who are helping their children continue to learn at home.

Rizvi speaking at a Student Senate meeting

Last month, Rizvi launched Tutor2Homes, a community outreach initiative that offers free online tutoring to K-12 students. Rizvi got the idea to start the program because of a conversation with a co-worker, who felt uneasy helping his daughter learn a concept he had not studied in a long time.

“Because he was so far removed from the subject, he felt uncomfortable teaching it,” Rizvi said. “I thought, what if other parents have similar concerns? If students do not fully understand a concept and parents are not comfortable teaching it, this could hinder students’ academic progress.”

A former tutor, Rizvi figured he could use technology to connect parents and their children with individuals who could provide the one-on-one academic support they needed. He created an account on social media and generated a simple online form parents or students can complete to request a tutor.

“It is a very straightforward idea,” he said. “If a tutor is available and a student needs help, Tutor2Homes will assist. We ask students to identify subjects they need help with and the times they are available, then we match them with tutors with a similar profile,” he said. “Tutors are here to bridge the gap and to help students understand and master the content their teachers have supplied. We work to ensure they are proficient at using the skills they are learning.”

Tutor2Homes offered its first online tutoring sessions last week. Rizvi has been raising awareness of the service and recruiting Wayne State students and others to serve as tutors. Instagram is the primary platform he uses, although Tutor2Homes can also be found on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Rizvi is currently seeking tutors in several subjects, including mathematics, science, English, history and foreign languages. The more areas tutors can address, the easier it is to match students with individuals who can help them.

“Some volunteers are undergraduates who are interested in becoming teachers,” he said. “Tutoring is a great way to gain experience and to reach out to communities that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic the most.”

Rizvi said the service is available to students and parents around the world. He hopes to create a database of people who are willing and able to help.

“Everyone deserves access to quality education, and students in some areas do not have the resources they need right now,” he said. “Using an online platform helps Tutor2Homes reach people everywhere. We even have a tutor from England with a Ph.D. in biochemistry who has been teaching for seven years and is ready to help students with chemistry. This is an international initiative that can bring people around the world together.”

One of the challenges Rizvi faces is reaching the K-12 community. “I have been trying to get in touch with school districts so they can share information about Tutor2Homes with parents,” he said. “I am looking for other ways to let parents know about this free resource.”

Rizvi, who plans to attend medical school, moved to the U.S. with his family six years ago. He said it is important for him to give back, particularly to the Wayne State and Detroit communities.

“When I moved here from Toronto, I knew I would have access to opportunities at Wayne State that I couldn’t get anywhere else, and I have embraced the ones that were provided to me,” he said. “Every new experience has taught me that you build yourself when you build the community around you. I want to serve and contribute to the community that has given so much to me.”

For more information about Tutor2Homes, visit instagram.com/tutor2homes. To sign up to be a tutor, go to tinyurl.com/tutor2homestutor. To request a tutor, visit tinyurl.com/tutor2homesstudent.