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Neighborhood Allies Supports Children of Steel – a Free Online Tutoring Service for Elementary Students – through Mentorship and $800 Sponsorship Award

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Created, led, and managed by high school students from Taylor Allderdice High School, The Children of Steel is a completely FREE online tutoring service for elementary students in grades K-5.


When Taylor Allderdice High School student, Jennifer Lin, began attending school remotely during 2020, she quickly realized the devastating impact that COVID-19 would have on education. She noticed how her 8-year old sister struggled to engage in her schoolwork virtually and watched her fall behind in her classes as the weeks drug on. While Jennifer jumped in to help her little sister adjust to this new way of learning, she wanted to do something to help other elementary school students, too — especially those who lacked the resources to access outside support.

Members of the Children of Steel team. Photo courtesy of Children of Steel.

Jennifer reached out to peers who might be interested in providing free tutoring to students in grades K-5. Many of her peers answered the call, including classmate Arina Sokolova. Together, Jennifer and Arina founded The Children of Steel (COS) in June of 2020 to confront obstacles to education created by COVID-19 and help ALL students learn. COS strives to eliminate the socioeconomic barriers that hinder education, empower the importance of education by providing a safe space where elementary kids can learn math, English, and science, and encourage students to develop skills such as leadership, kindness, and ambition.

Shortly after launching their organization, COS reached out to local nonprofits, including Neighborhood Allies, to seek mentorship and to spread the word about their services across Pittsburgh. Tamara Cartwright, Neighborhood Allies Program Manager for Social Impact Design, set up regular meetings with Jennifer and Arina to provide insight on development and to connect them to other community organizations who could promote their services. Tamara also looped in Chelsea Contino, Neighborhood Allies Communications and Outreach Program Manager, to give advice on COS’s social media and outreach plans.

Since their launch in 2020, The Children of Steel:

  • Have been utilized by students from 40 elementary schools and 42 zip codes
  • Obtained 211 high school tutor volunteers
  • Provided free tutoring to 169 elementary students
  • Started 8 chapters of COS at Pittsburgh area high schools and reached out to friends or family attending high schools in New York, Virginia, Mississippi, and Arkansas (whose programs will launch in the summer of 2021!)


“The Children of Steel offer a wonderful program that is an asset to our community. It is inclusive and supportive, empowering high-school students to support the growth and development of elementary students. As staff at Neighborhood Allies, we are honored to serve on the Board of an organization whose leadership and vision we believe in. We are delighted to, and willingly devote our time and talent to support their work!”

-Tamara Cartwright, Program Manager for Social Impact Design

COS tutors from the Pittsburgh Creative & Performing Arts High School organized a weekly drive for the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank. Photo courtesy of the Children of Steel Facebook Page.

While free tutoring is COS’s main focus, the high school volunteers consistently get involved in other community service projects happening at their schools or in their communities. Individual COS chapters have held donation drives for the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank, volunteered to pack lunches at Community Kitchen, served meals at East End Cooperative Ministries‘ soup kitchen, and collaborated with Open Field to hold a soccer materials donations drive to send to youth in Cameroon, Africa.

“Academics isn’t only through textbooks but also through leadership,” Jennifer said in a recent Pittsburgh Post Gazette article. “You learn from the community around you. If you’re surrounded by all these hard-working tutors…it’ll promote curious, confident children.”

As they grew, COS also wanted to find a way to raise money to fund their expanding programming. Tamara was able to connect them to ioby — a unique crowdfunding platform that mobilizes neighbors who have good ideas to become powerful civic leaders who plan, fund, and make positive change in their own neighborhoods. COS recently launched their campaign on ioby to raise money for unlimited zoom time to conduct their sessions, academic curriculum resources, and tutoring mentorships. Additionally, because their project directly addresses challenges brought on by COVID-19, they are also eligible for up to $5,000 in matching funds from ioby through their Pittsburgh COVID-19 Community Response Match! Thus far, The Children of Steel has raised $5,562, which includes an $800 sponsorship from Neighborhood Allies! You can donate to Children of Steel’s ioby campaign HERE until April 30th, 2021! 

We are honored to be supporters of The Children of Steel. Thank you, COS, for creating opportunities for elementary school students to learn from and engage with positive role models like you!

You can learn more and sign up for The Children of Steel’s tutoring services at

Check out this thoughtful thank you video from the Children of Steel Executive Team:

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