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Sammamish teens' nonprofit tutors low-income students for free

Student Connection tutored over 100 students in 2020. They're currently looking to expand their services and are accepting applications from low-income families.

KING COUNTY, Wash. — Two high schoolers in Sammamish have turned a volunteering gig into a tutoring nonprofit that's helping over a hundred low-income students in King County. 

Student Connection is a King County-based nonprofit that provides free tutoring services to low-income students by connecting them with a high school volunteer for weekly academic support. 

Skyline High School students and siblings Sophie and Josh Wolters started the program after volunteering with a transitional housing community in Maple Valley. 

Josh tutored a 7-year-old boy every week. 

"He told me that before I showed up, he never did his homework," Josh said. "But when I was there by his side, he actually started enjoying it. I couldn't help thinking that there were so many other boys and girls, just like that boy, who didn't have a tutor, couldn't afford one."

Josh and Sophie were encouraged to turn their own small tutoring program into a 501(c) nonprofit that was suddenly helping over 100 students and has expanded into 42 schools. 

"Josh and I got a lot of calls from parents during the pandemic really in need of a tutor," Sophie said. 

Parker Satenberg is the activities director for Student Connection. He says they have over 100 student tutors who often play the role of mentor for the kids they work with. 

Student Connection says they look for students who will be consistent and always show up for their kids when searching for tutors. 

"The kids we tutor have a lot of change in their lives, and so commitment and consistency and finding tutors who will show up every single week for their students and actually build a relationship with them, is something that we look for," Sophie said.

In King County alone, there are nearly 200,000 students from low-income backgrounds who can't afford extra academic support. Student Connection is currently accepting applications from parents who have students in need of academic assistance. 

The nonprofit is also accepting donations which will go towards pairing students with tutors.

"As little as $100 can provide six months of tutoring for a student that could change their entire life," Parker said. 

Student Connection is currently expanding its services, which includes teaming up with the Tacoma School District to offer in-school tutoring assistance. 

Parents who are interested in signing up their students can go to Student Connections' website and fill out an application. 

"We would be really happy if we could work something out with them," Sophie said.