• LAST DAY OF SCHOOL Friday, May 24
  • GRADUATION May 26, 7:30 @Ford Stadium
The News Source of Plano East Senior High School

Panther Prints

The News Source of Plano East Senior High School

Panther Prints

The News Source of Plano East Senior High School

Panther Prints

TOTS: Connecting on Another Level


Knowledge circulates the community, seeping into the minds of little kids as teenagers teach them in accessible, online tutoring sessions. Co-founders Natalie Tan and Siri Mokkala created Teaching Others to Succeed, or TOTS, in 2021. TOTS is unique in the aspect that it provides free tutoring to underprivileged kids while members gain leadership experience and volunteer hours.

“It’s incredible to see so many young people teach the next generation and to see so many people passionate and interested in it,” Tan said. “I find it incredibly rewarding, especially to do any kind of community service, but I think working with kids in general is just really important because you can see the next generation and younger students be interested in what you’re interested in and it’s really cool to see that.” 

When joining the club, students fill out a form stating the days they are available and the subjects they have an interest in teaching. The principals of surrounding elementary schools receive flyers advertising TOTS to put up around their schools. Kids whose families may not have the money to pay for tutoring can then choose to join and get matched with a tutor. Compared to volunteering at a food bank or getting donation hours, volunteering with TOTS allows members to work one-on-one with a student and build a relationship as they get to know each other. 

“When you’re tutoring someone, you get to see the reaction that is triggered by you helping them,” TOTS president Fiona Wang said. “That’s why I love it so much because I get to actually interact with the people that I’m helping.”

Story continues below advertisement

While gaining volunteer hours is a notable characteristic of TOTS, Wang and vice president Sahana Thasma want to emphasize the kids this year. They plan to implement a new element: workshops at the end of every month. These include collaborations with other clubs and expand to cover non-curricular subjects such as health science, robotics or other topics the kids are passionate about. The goal is for workshops to ultimately serve as a fun experience that further strengthens the tutor-tutee bond since tutors are not simply teachers; they are also mentors that the kids seek for advice.

“I was just trying to stress to [my tutee] to make clubs, go out with your friends, go volunteer, or go meet new people because I think meeting new people is so underdone,” Thasma said. “People kind of just stick to the people they know and then they don’t get experience with the outside world. I just told her to [build relationships]. That’s honestly more than I could ever teach [her], what [she] can learn for [herself].” 

Understanding kids is important to the club since they do not always comprehend ideas in the same way teenagers do. According to Wang, it is imperative for tutors to put themselves in the shoes of their students to better understand their perspective and promote a more efficient session. All students also have different learning styles. For example, if a student is a visual learner, giving them notes would not be the best course of action. In addition to this, many students are shy in the beginning, which is why TOTS focuses on the importance of building connections. With patience and determination, tutors are able to watch the kids open up and discover their passions as they start to grasp new concepts.

“It makes [me] feel happy because at some point, we all had those moments too when we went through learning something difficult and we finally figured it out,” Mokkala said. “To watch that happen for someone else and kind of have a part in helping someone else reach that point, it’s a really rewarding and satisfying experience.” 

Currently, Tan is working on expanding TOTS to underprivileged areas like Desoto, Texas, as well as internationally to places such as Turkey and Africa. According to Tan, education is fundamental to society and educators have a responsibility to fight for educational equity. Tutors inspire young kids by showing them that they are cared for, advising them on a multitude of different topics and embracing personal passion and enthusiasm. This can all jumpstart a kid’s love for learning, setting the foundation for their future.

“I want to be someone’s role model,” Wang said. “I want to help these kids who don’t know a lot of things find their passion because I know when I was younger, I had my mom and my dad to help me explore what I want to do, but I wish I had someone like an older sister to help me. That’s what I get to offer these kids.”

More to Discover