Cognitia Tutoring

Boardman Junior Starts Nonprofit Tutoring Program

BOARDMAN, Ohio – Vincent Dong remembers the struggles of studying at home. Both of his parents work at a local restaurant with no one to help as he tries to comprehend his studies.

He heard of many others at Boardman High School experiencing the same issues, struggling with schoolwork.

The Boardman High School junior and first-generation Chinese immigrant only had his grandmother, who does not speak English, at home after school. Those events led him to create Cognitia in February, a free student-led nonprofit tutoring program.

The nonprofit currently has three branches at Boardman, Canfield and West Branch High Schools with about a dozen academically gifted students working for his organization.

“Our tutoring service is a peer-to-peer tutoring system that consists of tutors from the surrounding community that come together and help the students who are in need,” says Dong. “So we are kind of the connecting force that brings the tutors who need volunteer hours and who are willing to help the underprivileged children in our community.”

Dong, who aspires to attend Stanford University and work in medical management, is looking to expand his swath of volunteer tutors into the South Range and Poland school districts, along with branching out into the Cleveland and Canton areas. He adds he has connections with students at some of those schools and is focused on building the brand in northeast Ohio.

The nonprofit organization plans to incorporate college mentors – allowing high school students to learn about admissions, schools and the college experience, with ACT and SAT preparation seminars scheduled for the second quarter of 2022.

“As students graduate from management and go on to their own colleges, we have this seed model,” Dong says. “Everyone carries a little part of Cognitia with them and they can start their own hub of tutoring services.

“We work on a decentralized model where students are able to manage and lead. They’ll be able to do it remotely from their colleges and residences.”

Katie Kent, branch manager at West Branch High School, says they are in the process of creating an Instagram account for Cognitia. They are creating flyers for school counselors and teachers to distribute and post, hoping to draw the attention of those who need tutoring.

Kent, who aspires to be a teacher, says Cognitia is for National Honor Society students who are looking for service hours toward graduation and to enhance their college applications.

“Not only am I a leader in this, but I want other kids to feel like they are helping people,” she says. “I want the tutees to have a sense of comfort – knowing they do have that help.”

Catherine Esper, the public relations manager at the Canfield branch, says they are spreading the word about Cognitia in the school system.

“We are just starting to roll out the tutoring in the schools and helping people get involved,” she says. “We’re still recruiting right now.”

Boardman Branch Manager Ethan Blevins says many students at his school know the challenges of struggling with their schoolwork. He wants Cognitia to make a difference with his classmates and beyond.

The nonprofit website says its goal is to have at least 10 branches by the start of 2022 with at least one international branch. The plan is to have at least one Cognitia in every state by the third quarter of 2023.

Vincent Dong, Ethan Blevins, Katie Kent and Catherine Esper are part of the three-school system of Cognitia, a free student-led nonprofit tutoring program.

“I wish more students had access worldwide,” Blevins says. “There are students out there that struggle daily in classes. I got involved because I want to be part of making a difference in their lives – prepare them with the tools they need for success in school.”

Dong was talking to representatives at his three branches Wednesday evening at the Boardman Library, discussing ideas for fundraising. They’re starting a school supply initiative for binders, pens, highlighters, markers, loose leaf paper, notebooks and other related items for those in kindergarten through 12 grade. There will be an event at Boardman High School, servicing those in need around the Mahoning Valley.

Eventually, Cognitia wants to begin a school supply network for its member institutions, providing materials to students and staff.

“We are looking to implement school supply drives to see if we can drive this cost down,” Dong says. “We still need money. We are reaching out to local businesses, parents and schools for funding.”

The volunteer tutoring program was started by a lawyer who offered to file the 501c3 application pro bono.

“We do not have any seed funds now, but we are open for donations on our website,” he says. “These donations would be used toward website management and our school supply event.”

Pictured at top: Boardman High School junior Vincent Dong created Cognitia, a free student-led nonprofit tutoring program.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.