Mines News

Release Date Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Mines Students Develop Free Tutoring Service

RAPID CITY, SD (Feb. 9, 2021) — A new organization created and run by students at South Dakota Mines offers free tutoring to K-12-age students.

StudyDakota is the brainchild of Debbie Rankin and Kate Dickinson, both biomedical engineering graduate students at Mines. Rankin began exploring the idea of a tutoring program after volunteering her time for the Homework Helpers program in New York. She shared her idea for a similar local program to her friend and classmate Dickinson.

“It was a five-minute conversation that turned into a large project,” Dickinson says.

Both Dickinson and Rankin say many students don’t have the resources they need to succeed, especially with the challenges of the pandemic. “We act like education is equal for all but not every family has the resources or time to help their children with academics,” says Rankin. “We’re trying to fill that gap.”

The pair were joined by two other students – biomedical engineering graduate student Taylor Bright and biology/chemistry undergraduate Kyle Bergevin – in establishing the program. Kelsey Gilcrease, an instructor in the Department of Chemistry, Biology and Health Sciences, also played an “integral part in helping to establish the program and she’s served as a great mentor,” says Rankin. “She’s really supported our idea and boosted our confidence in the decisions we made.”

Currently StudyDakota has 29 volunteer tutors who are either Mines students or Mines alumni. The program can manage from 40 to 60 students with some tutors teaching more than one student at a time.

Tutors offer help in the following areas – mathematics, biology, chemistry, engineering/computer science, physics and English. Students and their parents can sign up on the StudyDakota website at https://www.studydakota.org/.

Each student in need of tutoring is assigned a tutor and asked to email homework ahead of their scheduled one-hour session. This allows tutors to familiarize themselves with the classwork before the session begins, Rankin says. 

All sessions are done via Zoom, organized in one large Zoom meeting with breakout rooms for individual students and tutors. The Zoom organizer pops in and out of sessions and parents are encouraged to sit in as well.

Rankin says safety has always been a factor in planning the program. Alumni who tutor are asked to pay for a background check. Current Mines students who tutor are vetted as well, but do not undergo a background check. Tutors are never to share private information, including phone numbers, with those they tutor. In fact, only first names are shared between tutor and student. Tutors also sign confidentiality forms.   

Tutors will be added on a rolling basis. Students or alumni interested in volunteering for the project can send inquiries on the StudyDakota website. 


About South Dakota Mines  

Founded in 1885, South Dakota Mines is one of the nation’s leading engineering, science and technology universities. South Dakota Mines offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees and a best-in-class education at an affordable price. The university enrolls 2,493 students with an average class size of 24. The South Dakota Mines placement rate for graduates is 97 percent, with an average starting salary of more than $68,685. For these reasons  South Dakota Mines is ranked among the best engineering schools in the country for return on investment. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu and on FacebookTwitter, LinkedInInstagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

Contact: Lynn Taylor Rick, (605) 394-2554, Lynn.TaylorRick@sdsmt.edu