Pleasanton students are busy creating community during the coronavirus pandemic by freely offering their help and services to others in a variety of ways. Some have been lifting spirits by inviting strangers to drop in for a virtual yoga session, learn how to sketch or master an academic subject.
Amador Valley High sophomore Lakshmi Sajith, 16, has been hosting free online yoga classes since the studio where she normally teaches on Main Street, Downtown Yoga, closed for the shelter-in-place order in March.
Sajith, who normally teaches a Iyengar yoga class for teens after school, was prompted to offer her instruction at no charge after seeing how certain yoga stretches and poses were helping her own family during quarantine.
"I've been spending a lot of time at home like everyone, and my parents have been working at home and I've seen how they've been affected," Sajith said. "I started off teaching my mom just to help her with some neck pain she was dealing with. She seemed to be enjoying it a lot, and the benefits."
Sajith then started teaching some of her mother's friends, progressing from there to include her own friends. "My friends were enjoying it and I had the idea, it became a thing that spread out to their friends, and it snowballed from there" she said.
The weekly classes address many common problems that occur from being less active, as has been the case for many people while sheltering. "My sequences are focused on changes that our body may have felt after this new lifestyle," Sajith said. "I also ask a lot of the students for anything they may need specifically, so I may change my sequences according to my students' needs."
Group sessions are currently held via Zoom on Saturdays and Sundays from 5 to 6 p.m. For more information, contact Sajith on her website, www.aestheticallyteen.com.
Dhruvi Mehta is another Amador sophomore, offering local fourth- and fifth-grade students free instruction in art, a subject that she's been passionate about since she was a toddler. "Teaching is one of my favorite things to do, I love teaching so much," Mehta told the Weekly.
Mehta, who also tutors children at Mohr Elementary in science, has been practicing her creative skills as an artist since she was three years old. She previously worked as an assistant for her mother, who is also an artist, and at an art studio in Dublin. It was family tradition that spurred Mehta to organize the classes after the shelter-in-place order.
"My inspiration was my mom and grandma; they both taught art," Mehta said. "I know especially because of the pandemic that it would be a great way to give back to the community because these kids are so bored at home, and art is a great getaway for anyone."
Classes in drawing, sketching and shading with color pencil for different age and skill levels are available every week, with a new theme introduced each time. The lessons are live-streamed four days a week, but also recorded so students can pick up new skills at any time. So far around 240 people have reached out requesting to take a course. To join a class, visit https://sites.google.com/view/yourvirtualhelper/online-art-classes.
A group of Foothill High students have been helping their community during the pandemic by assisting elementary students with free online tutoring. The boys -- Milan Suresh, Abyan Das, Sanjay Adhikesaven, Monish Muralicharan and Pranav Nethi -- and other friends offer both virtual group and one-on-one tutoring sessions for three different grades and levels including English, math, science, coding and history.
"We wanted to play our part in helping the community in this crisis," Adhikesaven said. "It was more challenging to get our work done, so it was even harder for elementary students."
By offering more personalized screen time for students, "we thought this would help fill one of the biggest gaps in remote learning," he added. "A lot of the teaching that goes on (with distance learning) is not really face to face, more worksheets are given. There's very little actual face-to-face tutoring, teaching that way."
Muralicharan said, "The students have been really enjoying it, the students are really enjoying the classes and being engaged. Our priority right now is obviously teaching students but we want to get more students and expand."
There are 22 students so far, with about 5 to 10 students in a group class; most classes are weekly, lasting up to an hour, but some are held more frequently, like mathematics.
For more information, visit sailorslearning.com.
Keerthana Nallamotu is another Foothill student working with friends to teach elementary children how to build their presentational skills and give them the opportunity to voice their opinions. The nonprofit Speak Out Foundation has spent the last two years holding weekly classes at Fairlands and Mohr elementary schools, as well as community centers, and hosting speech workshops and competitions for kids.
"Especially in times like these when kids are stuck at home with minimal social interaction, it is crucial for them to practice their public speaking and presentational skills to ensure that they have the fundamentals needed for later success," Nallamotu told the Weekly.
To that end, Speak Out is holding free virtual speech classes for students in grades 4 to 7 every Saturday and Sunday, 3 to 3:45 p.m.
To sign up, visit tinyurl.com/speakoutonline.