Virtual learning is leaving many students confused and struggling in class.

But a new program in Syracuse is helping them improve both their grades and relationships.

Learning doesn’t stop for Mahbub Layli, even when the school day is over.

“I need help with Algebra 2, English 11, and U.S. history,” said Layli.

The 11th grader spends hours at the North Side Learning Center every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday for one-on-one tutoring.

“Virtual learning is a little bit complicated because sometimes when we’re in the Zoom meeting, we can’t ask the teacher what we want, and they don’t give more examples on how to do certain things,” said Layli.

But now, Layli is receiving guidance in a new tutoring program. It was created by Syracuse University Writing Professor Brice Nordquist and the Office of Community Engagement. They teamed up with more than a dozen organizations citywide to offer support to kindergarten through 12th grade and early college students.

“To sit down with somebody, to be able to walk you through a particular problem, to be able to help you navigate the educational technology, it’s really invaluable,” said Nordquist. “I think it’s made a huge difference.”

Nordquist said they have about 350 online and in-person tutors assisting more than 150 students. He said they’re looking for more community partners to expand the program and help those struggling. 

“I hope students feel supported and cared for by their neighbors,” said Nordquist. “I hope they get insight into different world experiences as they connect with tutors who come from a range of different backgrounds, a range of different life histories, career paths. Tutors are connecting from their first year of college, or even from high school, and all the way through retirement. People are connecting from careers like electrical engineering, and also retired school teachers. People who are supporting students are majors in biology and chemistry and physics and writing, so I hope students get windows into those worlds.”

The hope is students are able to walk away from each session with a connection made.

“I get happy because I did my work,” said Layli. “It makes you feel like you did something at least than just joining the class and leaving.”

For those interested in receiving help, tutoring, or becoming a community partner, contact Brice Nordquist at