California Teen Develops Free Tutoring Resources to Help Students Around the World

Daily Point of Light # 7508 Mar 14, 2023

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Calvin Huang. Read his story and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light. 

17-year-old Calvin Huang saw a big need during the COVID-19 pandemic and took action. With disruptions caused by the pandemic, children and teens across the world no longer had resources for extracurricular activities. Calvin didn’t want their unique passions to fizzle out just because resources were slim. He developed StartLine to share educational videos and tutorials at no cost to communities in need, and has impacted hundreds of students around the world. 

Read Calvin’s story, including what inspires him to volunteer and the lessons he has learned from his experiences as a volunteer. 

What inspires you to volunteer?  

I’ve volunteered for a long time. I started out in fourth or fifth grade learning how to use the abacus. One day, my teacher asked me to help another kid who was a few years younger than me. At that point, I didn’t really know what was going on, because there weren’t any other volunteers who could help. I just went up, and I started doing my thing, showing him how to move the beads and how to operate an abacus. From that point on, I really enjoyed this kind of methodology of teaching where you go through a set of procedures and watch someone start from having no concept of solving problems to being able to figure it out. You get the sense of enjoyment, the sense of pride because as you’re solving these problems along with them you get this sense of gratitude and joy. I think that’s where my passion for volunteering really began. 

Describe your volunteer role with StartLine.

StartLine started during the COVID-19 pandemic when I realized that a lot of extracurricular opportunities have been cut off, which people rely on to give their kids opportunities to learn and grow in interesting topics like robotics, math and whatnot. I was thinking that I already had a lot of teaching experience in the past, so why not start teaching students something I was really good at: code. I started a small free tutoring program teaching kids how to code. We tried some work in the Python coding language and learned how to build games and animate characters. We had a really good time.  

The students were into different things, too. Some liked piano, some enjoyed books or robotics. There was a really wide range of interests. Then I thought that I didn’t have to contain myself to just teaching code. If I could gather people together and start teaching different extracurriculars, we could serve an even bigger group of students. It’s really important for students to get these opportunities at an early age.  

So I built the StartLine app to be a video platform where people can upload videos on a ton of different topics. For me, it was coding. There were so many topics. We eventually partnered with organizations like the Boys and Girls Club to host joint workshops. We serve hundreds of kids regionally and our videos have reached roughly 100,000 views.  

Calvin Huang, center, is developing an app to connect individuals experiencing homelessness to resources in their area./Courtesy Calvin Huang

What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?  

I think the most rewarding part would probably be this community that’s formed. There are a lot of people who enjoy sharpening their skills and honing their talents, so just gathering them together and having them give back and serve the community is such a reward. We build this sense of community with each other where we get appreciative feedback from parents and work together to try and spread our skills around. 

What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer? 

I think one of the most important things I’ve learned is cooperation. It’s easy to try and get things done by yourself, instead of relying on others, because sometimes when you’re working with high school kids, they might not be reliable. It’s easy to just do the work by myself, but I think what’s really important is getting everyone on the same page – whether that is assigning different roles or working together to come up with a plan of attack. How do we get this cohesive organization running to the point where it’s sustainable and videos are consistently being published? And how do we get that to continue even after we go on to college and beyond? That’s what we’re continuously learning about.  

Are there any future partnerships, programs, or events that you are excited about? 

We’re hosting more regularly planned workshops for StartLine. I’m also working on another app right now called StartLine iCare which is built upon my volunteer experience working with people experiencing homelessness to locate nearby resources.  

Why is it important for others to get involved in causes they care about?  

I think that the most important benefit of volunteering is this idea where you’re getting a different kind of insight into society. For example, when I was volunteering with individuals experiencing homelessness, you get to have conversations with different people who have different life experiences than you. One common thing I’ve noticed is they really talk a lot. They have so much to say, but people rarely stop to have a normal conversation with them. They have so much life experience, so many stories and so many struggles. So I feel like volunteering really gives you this conduit where you can discover different parts of society and discover different perspectives. I find this kind of experience not only exciting, but really, really valuable. 

What do you want people to learn from your story? 

Just start something. You can do anything from volunteering to simply talking to other people about something you’re passionate about. Taking that first step is really important and gets you more passionate about an issue.  

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Calvin? Find local volunteer opportunities. 

Madi Donham