Student Connection Connection has a Mission to Disrupt the Cycle of Povertyby Mary Clymer on January 29, 2021
Because no child should face school alone.
A year ago two high school seniors had a vision. Today that vision has turned into a 501c3 on a mission to help connect students to tutors so no child is left falling behind.
Joshua Wolters and Vishnu Kartha, both graduates from Skyline High School, were involved in peer tutoring during their senior year of high school. The middle and elementary school kids they tutored were from a low-income neighborhood in their community. In no time they began to realize that many of these students had no one to help them with their school work.
Once the kids saw how helpful a peer-tutor was they warmed up pretty fast to the idea.
What started as tutoring soon developed into mentoring relationships. The confidence in the students was on the rise.
They both realized they had something great going but didn’t know how to grow it.
That’s when they heard about the Equity Summit.
The Equity Summit was an event put on in partnership with the Seattle Southside Chamber and the Renton Chamber to gather regional business leaders, policymakers, and the community together to find real solutions to the challenges our community faces—specifically the economic inequity prevalent in King County.
The goal of the event was to allow people from all walks of life to bring together their ideas to help create a more collaborative inclusive and diverse audience.
So the boys put together a pitch and showed up as the youngest presenters in the group.
The presentation showed how they wanted to create a non-profit that connected high school and college students with low income students in their community to offer free tutoring sessions.
Joshua described the presentation as Amazing. Their presentation was met with applause. Not only did the selected panel of community leaders select these two high schoolers as the winner of the event but as they walked back to their seats after the presentation they got swarmed with people giving them business cards.
Everyone wanted to help.
“Wow!” Joshua expressed, “All these people like this idea and want to help us.”
You could hear the pride in his voice for taking an idea and going for it. Both the Renton Chamber and the Seattle Southside Chamber pledged to help get this up and running and they have.
Every month members from all parties meet up to help connect them with non-profits, resources, and school districts.
Joshua oversees operations today. “I connect people from one part of the community to another.” he tells me. “ The Chambers have been a great help. We are now up and running and our connections keep getting bigger and wider.”
Student Connection is now a fully established non-profit offering Student tutoring with over 60 students and tutors.
Josh believes they will be serving between 100-200 students by the end of the year.
All in king county.
Joshua took a year off between high school and college to get the 501c3 up and operating. He says it’s been a lot of work. He oversees everything from outreach, recruitment, screening, and training.
The further he gets into this the more he can see the need for tutors.
“Tutoring is more important than ever”, Joshua tells me, “Every day I get calls from parents saying that their kid is failing or falling behind.”
Many of these parents want tutors every day of the week. These are often single parents who work long and non standard hours who can’t afford a tutor.
This program is a blessing for them and their child.
The tutoring is working. Students who were failing had tutors help them create a plan to make up work and get back ahead.
They have a full system of operations and luckily he isn’t in this alone.
Vishnu is currently in his freshman year at the University of Washington, but still sits as an active member of the board of directors. His sister, Sophie Wolters, a sophomore at skyline high school is now playing a role. She's the tutor coordinator and schedules all tutoring time.
Joshua explained how important outreach has been to the non-profit. The fundraising and relationship building and partnerships with school districts and low income housing has been a huge under-taking. He feels grateful for the guidance and help from the Chambers and community members who are looking to help.
There is a giant influx of people wanting help, and Student Connection are working hard to bridge the gap.
The hardest part of building out of nothing is behind them. Now they have a system that is extremely valuable. It took time, but now they have it. People use it daily to sign up.
“We realize we are just scratching the service” says Josh, “Wealthy to worst are falling behind”.
Part of the outreach is looking to expand to school districts to get a steady stream of students and tutors. He told me that school districts have resources designed to help and make great partnerships.
Josh is working on making the program sustainable, and is likely heading off to college next year, although he anticipates that he’ll always maintain a delegation role.
Currently tutoring sessions last an hour but he tells me they often go longer because of the connect these peer-tutors are making with their students.
If you are looking for a great opportunity to help your community this is a solid option. Josh tells me they are currently looking for more tutors. And they are constantly broadening their reach to more businesses and school districts to make connections and help bridge gaps in communities across king county.
They run on a shoestring budget Josh told me, but said $50-$100 donation insures a student gets tutored for 6 months. Once they can start paying a staff that amount will multiply, but so will the amount of kids they tutor.
Below are some quick links to anyone looking to tutor, be tutored, or wanting to help these amazing kids pay it forward to the next generation.
Receive free tutoring for any grade and any subject from a trained high schooler. We help with general homework, specific subjects, advanced courses, motivation/encouragement, planning/organizing, SAT/ACT, and college applications. Complete this short sign up survey and be matched within 2 weeks: Tutor Request Form
Become a tutor for a student in need of academic support. Tutoring is a way to be there for a student in the community, battle educational inequity, and gain meaningful volunteer hours. Fill out this initial application and get matched with a student in just a few weeks: Tutor/Leader Initial Application
To serve the ever-growing need of students who can’t afford tutors and are falling behind in school, we are always looking to build new partnerships with schools, non-profits, housing, and other organizations that serve youth. We also are seeking to find a sponsor who can help us tutor as many students as possible. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved.