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South Bay Teen Helps Encourage Young Students Through Distance Learning

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – When the Bay Area began to shelter in place, Andrew Lu and several friends brainstormed how to encourage younger kids to keep wanting to learn.

"I'm someone who really enjoys learning, and this would be a missed opportunity if we didn't do something like that," said Lu, a senior at The Harker School in San Jose.

Lu and his friends came up with YAPA Kids. The San Jose-based nonprofit stands for Youth Academic Programs Association.

With Lu as co-founder and co-president, more than 3,000 students are taking its free virtual classes in all 50 states and 10 countries.

"We really thought that would be an opportunity where we could continue to inspire that academic curiosity with the students, even in this online platform, because there's so many people dedicated and wanting to volunteer," Lu explained.

Andrew Lu - Jefferson Award Winnner
Andrew Lu. (CBS)

From music-writing to math, more than 400 volunteers teach dozens of subjects to elementary and middle school students. Each class has no more than 10 students.

Nine-year-old Vikaas Gurumoorthy is taking writing and public speaking.

"That's why my Mom enrolled me in public speaking because I was really shy," he said.

And now?

"Not too much now. It got better," he said, smiling

His mother, Sumija Sukumar, said his academics improved as well.

"He got compliments from his writing teacher, too, so it's a great way to go," said Sukumar.

YAPA Kids is also a growing experience for the teen instructors.

Los Altos High School Senior Jackson Van Vooren has refined his leadership skills, thanks to Lu.

"Andrew has been a great leader and role model for me," said Van Vooren. "He really helped me boost my confidence and feel a lot more comfortable."

According to Lu, everyone wins at YAPA Kids, the teachers, and their students.

"We want them to explore during the rest of their lives and we want it to continue even during the pandemic," Lu said.

So for inspiring and supporting a love of learning through YAPA Kids, this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Andrew Lu.

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