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2 high schoolers step up to help younger kids learn virtually


Allison Pries For The Star-Ledger

Manan Shah lives the busy life of a 16-year-old.

When he’s not juggling his full load of advanced placement and honors classes, he’s involved with the Boy Scouts, Junior State of America, Model United Nations and Future Business Leaders of America. He’s placed first nationally in math competitions and got a 1580 out of 1600 on his SATs.

But being in quarantine gave him some extra time and an idea.

“I had a little bit of difficulty adjusting to virtually schooling, and I realized other people are probably having the same issue — especially younger students who rely on their teachers a lot more,” said Shah, a junior at John P. Stevens High School in Edison.

He decided to start a tutoring service where high school students would be matched with kids in grades K through 8. It’s called Limitless Minds and it has conducted more than 320 tutoring sessions since April and now has chapters in Scotch Plains/Fanwood, Marlboro, Springfield and East Brunswick.

“At the start I was thinking I could help one or two kids,” Shah said. “I didn’t expect it to become as big of a service as it has become now.”

He started by reaching out to his friend Lina Liu, also a junior at John P. Stevens. Then they looped in their principal, Anthony Shallop, to help them pull it off.

They made a flyer that was circulated to the grade schools in Edison. And Shallop helped them with logistics.

“Our students that volunteer have to have a parent in room, as does the tutee,” Shallop said. “An adult on each side makes sure everyone is being mindful with cyber safety.”

Limitless Minds currently has a Rolodex of more than 150 tutors and about 100 tutees. They typically meet through Zoom, FaceTime or Google Meet once or twice a week and the sessions last from 30 minutes to two hours.

It’s free for parents and tutees and the tutors earn volunteer hours they may need for clubs or other organizations they belong to.

“Tutoring is really expensive, $50 to $70 an hour,” Liu said. “It’s way too expensive for K through 8 students. To have a high school student available to teach them … a lot of parents really love that.”

Shallop said he is not surprised by the success of the program.

“I’m proud of the work the students have done to extend themselves to help others,” he said. “They saw a need, realized they could contribute and stepped up to fill that need.”

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