Sophomores at Issaquah High School are addressing issues of educational equity and access with a non-profit organization they started themselves.
Ishan Misro, Viraaj Singh and Sathvik Kanuri were all private tutors before they teamed up to develop PeerGuide.org, a non-profit website that aims to connect students ranging in age from Kindergarten to 9th grade with tutors that they might not otherwise have access to.
Misro, PeerGuide’s founder, said he realized when working as a private tutor that the only students that had access to tutoring were kids from affluent families. He identified a need for cost-free tutoring that would be accessible to the students that needed it but may not have the means to acquire such services.
“There is a big disparity in who gets access to education in this country,” Misro said.
The problematic cycle of affluence in which generational wealth allows for some to have access to career building educational opportunities while others do not only stifles socio-economic mobility, and Misro said that is what PeerGuide is intended to address.
“We want to be a resource to leverage those kids and try to get them somewhere they might not have gotten otherwise,” said Misro.
By August 2020, PeerGuide was a registered non-profit organization in Washington state. Misro said initially around 300 students applied for tutoring help.
He said after vetting the students to find the most high-need students with a prioritization of students from single-parent homes or dual-working families they narrowed the applicants down to 178 students they would be able to tutor.
The number of tutors that have agreed to volunteer with PeerGuide has drastically increased since its founding in August. Misro says they now have around 90 tutors from multiple states and countries as far away as Malaysia. Tutoring sessions are conducted through Zoom meetings, so tutors can participate from anywhere.
Singh said it was really word-of-mouth and the “energy,’ of the project that attracted tutors to the program.
Now as underclassmen in high school, the team is trying to market their program to both potential tutors and high-priority students alike.
They are in early discussions with the YMCA Social Impact Center and the Department of Children, Youth and Families to allow social workers to advertise their tutoring services to at-risk students that are in the foster care system.
When asked about the future of this project, the team said they want to continue the development of the organization through their college academic careers before passing it down to new students that are passionate about providing equitable access to educational support.
“We started to provide for those in-need and we want to continue,” Kanuri said.
If you re interested in signing up for PeerGuide, either as a tutor or a student, visit: https://www.peerguide.org/sign-ups.