Two students at Algonquin Regional High School in Northboro, Mass., have created a free online educational assistance tool called Aptitutor, which is essentially an online tutoring service they built at the end of May.
(TNS) — Cynthia Rajeshkanna, a student at Algonquin Regional High School in Northboro, Mass., used to hope that someday all children and teens would have access to free educational assistance. But she thought she had to wait for someone to develop a solution.
"This thinking applied to any issue or problem that I felt passionately about, but rather than waiting for change to happen, I realized that you have to take it upon yourself," Cynthia said. She added, "The world needs more people that are willing and bold enough to act upon their beliefs and actually carry it out."
For Cynthia and classmate Melissa Dai, the solution to the lack of free educational assistance is Aptitutor. The free online tutoring service, learning platform and nonprofit was created by the two teens at the end of May. And it's already providing students with a better education. Subsequently, it's equipping them with skills that can help them to have a brighter future.
The teens, who are both straight-A students who regularly volunteer in their community, noticed the urgent need for free supplemental education when schools closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. They realized that the move to shorter online classes didn't provide students with a comprehensive learning experience. The lack of free, accessible tutoring became even more detrimental to students than it already had been. But while they created Aptitutor to give back to their community in a time of crisis, they realize that it will still be tremendously valuable after the pandemic.
Aptitutor connects qualified high school-age tutors with students in kindergarten through Grade 12 who need help in a variety of academic subjects, including Advanced Placement course work. It also offers Zoom classes. And according to its website, https://aptitutornonprofit.wixsite.com/aptitutor, it "gamifies the experience of learning with a fun badge system."
Despite all the challenges to launching a new organization and resource, Melissa said that one of the biggest ones they've faced has been raising awareness.
"Fortunately, we have been gaining quite a bit of traction lately despite the fact that it's summer and students usually want to relax; we've had students ranging from our neighboring town all the way to Ethiopia, she noted. "It has been so inspiring to see the large amount of students who are so proactive when it comes to their education and who actually want to continue learning all year long, and it has truly empowered us and motivated us to move forward as an organization."
As the nonprofit has moved forward, the students who benefit from it have moved forward as well. Santhoshi Keesari is a parent of two children who have been using Aptitutor. Her daughter, who is in the seventh grade, sought to enhance her skills related to precalculus, Spanish and math competition, and Keesari has noticed that she's expanded her knowledge in those areas and is honing skills for the academic year ahead.
Her son has also benefited from Aptitutor. Keesari said, "My fourth-grader is taking classes in elementary English and math, and it has had a positive impact on him. We have seen improvement in fractions, and he is using the English concepts he learned during the Aptitutor sessions in his writing."
The new endeavor has made a difference in the lives of its creators as well. Melissa said co-creating Aptitutor has changed her life. She said that it's been rewarding to know that she's helping students, including ones who might not be able to afford tutoring.
"I love seeing the look on my tutees' faces the moment they understand a concept I'm teaching them. Those exact moments show me that I'm actually making a difference in their lives by furthering their education," Melissa shared. She added, "With quality education, bright minds of both the current generation and future generations will have the power to change the world for the better. Although we're doing it one step at a time, that's really the overarching goal of Aptitutor: to educate youth for a better and brighter future."
Cynthia agreed and added that she's grateful for the opportunity for personal growth. "Establishing and growing a nonprofit organization is by no means an easy feat," she said. "Sending emails back and forth, discussing logistics, and planning ahead - it's an enormous amount of work, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I've ultimately improved myself, whether this is through interpersonal skills, organization habits or leadership qualities."
Both teens envision a bright future. In addition to establishing grants for supplies for teachers and facilitating intercultural engagement among students in different parts of the world, Cynthia and Melissa hope to work with underprivileged communities. They've already begun working with families at Abby's House, a Worcester-based shelter for homeless women and children.
However, Cynthia said that because they realize that not everyone has access to Wi-Fi or the technology needed to use Aptitutor, she and Melissa have raised some funds to address the problem.
"With this money, we will be able to purchase Chromebooks and devices for students that don't have their own," Cynthia explained. She added, "There's so much to look forward to with Aptitutor, and I'm extremely grateful and excited to be able to help lead this effort."
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