Bayside teen awarded Senate proclamation for virtual tutoring nonprofit

Senator John Liu and Tae Kyu Lee (Photo courtesy of Senator Liu’s office)

A Bayside teen was recently honored for creating a nonprofit that helps fellow students who switched to remote learning during the pandemic.

On Thursday, Aug. 19, Senator John Liu presented a New York State Senate proclamation for exemplary service to the Bayside community to 17-year-old high schooler Tae Kyu Lee, who formed Pass the Torch back in 2020. As of July 2021, the organization has provided free, virtual, one-on-one tutoring to students through 3,000 academic and extracurricular lessons.

The idea for Pass the Torch was born out of Lee’s personal philosophy of valuing diversity and different perspectives. The then-sophomore at Horace Mann High School had been interested in learning about educational inequality, which became more pronounced when schools were forced to offer remote learning, resulting in his some of his classmates struggling to keep up with this sudden shift.

As of 2021, studies showed that up to 12 million K-12 students in the U.S. still lack the proper broadband access and other technology needed for successful remote learning.

Photo courtesy of Senator Liu’s office

Lee started meeting with students after school and providing them with assistance in core subjects like math, English, science and history as well as extracurriculars like debate, public speaking, visual arts and chess.

Over the past year, Pass the Torch has expanded to include over 80 high school, undergraduate and graduate school volunteers from different backgrounds. With their guidance, the organization has taught students locally in the United States and internationally in countries like South Korea, Uzbekistan and Ukraine.

Pass the Torch offers several initiatives at the high school level, including free SAT and ACT tutoring thanks to money from the Alexander Capelluto Award, which Lee applied for at his school. The funds allow Pass the Torch to provide students with private lessons, test prep books, mock tests and other guidance.

Through the nonprofit, Lee also developed a public policy essay contest for high schoolers, which allows students to identify prevalent community issues and propose policy solutions to address them. The contest is judged by a panel of professionals in the area of social policy and policymaking, including a former UN officer and a policy analyst from the San Jose City Council.