Extra Credit: Duluth Public Schools student creates tutoring program

Ninth-grader Alex Ren also heads a student-run fundraising association.

Portrait of student
Alex Ren seen at Ordean East Middle School on Saturday, July 16, in Duluth. Ren just graduated with a laundry list of accomplishments, including being the student body president and the founder of a couple of clubs.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — Alex Ren is set to head to East High School this fall, but he’s already got an impressive resume at his alma mater, Ordean Middle School.

The 14-year-old was elected president of Ordean’s student council last school year and founded and led a tutoring program there. He also directed a fundraising group, Charitably Organized Rickrolling Association , abbreviated as "CORA" and named after the longstanding virtual prank, that was put together by Duluth-area middle and high schoolers.

Ren answered questions about his work at the middle school and what he hopes to accomplish in high school. He said he wants to draw attention to his fellow tutors and student council members, plus Ordean administrators, and hopes that the tutoring program can garner support from the school and broader community.

Q: What's the Ordean Tutoring Program do? Why did you feel a need to start it? What's the best thing about the program? What's the most challenging?

A: The Ordean East Multisubject Tutoring Program is a student-led program that provides one-on-one tutoring to any students that sign up. It started out as math-only but later grew to encompass other subjects as well. We had over 15 student tutors last semester that were passionate about helping their fellow students.


Portrait of student
Alex Ren was president of Ordean Middle School.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

I felt the need to start the tutoring program because, after over a year of online learning, I felt that many students may have trouble with the new material. So, I contacted our principal and a supervising teacher, Mr. (Stephen) Sandberg. Together, we were able to find a location and suitable time period for the program.

This program helps support struggling students with their academic work and gives opportunities and experience to students willing to support others. I think that's the best part of our program: students helping and supporting each other.

The most challenging part was certainly getting the word out. At the start, we had tutors who were willing to help, but not so many students signed up. We also faced challenges getting permission for certain things, like putting up posters around the school.

In the end, we worked together to overcome these challenges and provide this program to our school. I really enjoyed starting and leading this program and made many friends along the way. Even though I'm going to high school, I'm sure that this program will continue to prosper in the future.

Q: What's CORA? What sort of programs did it raise money for while you were the director?

A: CORA is a student-led and organized fundraising group that was started earlier this year. We are planning our first fundraiser this October for Doctors Without Borders.

Q: Why did you run for student government at Ordean? Did you accomplish anything as president that you believe students there might notice even after you've headed to high school?

A: I chose to run for student government for a few reasons. Firstly, I believe that being active in serving our community is important. I also wanted to be part of making changes that affect our school as a whole. Finally, I think having this experience could also help me gain experience working with others, and together, serving the community.


With my experience with tutoring and other programs, I felt that I had the ability to lead the student council and help bring positive changes to our school.

Portrait of student
Alex Ren founded the Ordean East Multisubject Tutoring Program.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Q: Do you plan to run for student government or start or lead more programs in high school? If so, what do you have in mind?

A: Whenever I see the need for a program or a change that would benefit the school or our community as a whole, I will do something about it.

Moving into high school, I plan to continue supporting the Ordean East Multisubject Tutoring Program, as well as the Ordean East Student Council. I also plan to continue to grow and lead CORA, and hopefully raise money to help make the world a better place.

My fellow tutors and I are planning to start up the tutoring program once again in high school next year, and we will be in contact with our administration regarding that.

As for student government at East High School, I am certainly interested and will look into it as a student this year.

Board members agreed to a purchase agreement after a 90-minute closed session Monday night.

Joe Bowen is an award-winning reporter at the Duluth News Tribune. He covers schools and education across the Northland.

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