Panther Creek HS senior founds, runs free tutoring platform for middle to college-aged students

Wake County News

Two students tutor each other (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images).

CARY, N.C. (WNCN) – Panther Creek High School student Sai Maradugu knew he needed to begin preparing to take the SAT and ACT so he could start applying to colleges. But, the cost of tutoring steered him down an untraditional studying path to get the help he, and his classmates, needed.

In June 2020, Maradugu founded FYBY, For Young By Young, a youth-led organization that caters to other youth in the Triangle that offers tutoring resources.

“I first started tutoring my two neighbors who were rising freshmen in algebra. I had to create course content and material for them, and they enjoyed the instruction. Later on, they asked me for help with chemistry, so I asked my other friend to tutor chemistry,” Maradugu said. “He would also get students that were his neighbors to join his classes too. After tutoring students and putting in many hours for content preparation, I was able to see the need in the community for tutoring.”

Maradugu said through the course of helping younger kids, especially in the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, he identified a few key community problems that led him to co-found FYBY.

High-quality tutoring, he said, currently would cost him $60-200 per course, something he and others couldn’t afford during a pandemic-led recession. He also said he felt students’ productivity was decreasing with the transition to virtual schooling and virtual tutors.

“(I thought) ‘there are many highly academic achieving students in the Wake County District, how can I pair them with students in need?’” Maradugu said.

Sai Maradugu, left, and Aryan Shelke are the co-founders of For Young By Young (FYBY) a local tutoring initiative that is beginning to grow nationally (Sai Maradugu).

So he, and co-founder Aryan Shelke, put their helping vision into action.

Tutoring batches of children 5-10 at a time, Maradugu and Shelke, with the help of numerous other student tutors, have created teams that have built tutoring curriculums from the ground up.

These curriculums, according to the FYBY website, follow U.S.-based curriculums and are not just limited to the state of North Carolina. This is mostly because standardized tests, such as the SAT and ACT are country-wide, and both co-founders have been trying to expand FYBY tutoring to more than the Triangle area.

One way they have been successful in doing this is by offering tutoring through Google Meet, Google Classroom and Remind – all online resources that allow tutoring to be completed remotely. FYBY even has a system, that if a student chooses to do remote tutoring virtually, that a tutor will get back to them within two hours to confirm a session.

Maradugu said that the shutdowns during the pandemic not only created a need for students to access tutors but for students who needed resume activities to volunteer their time as tutors.

“During this period, there were no extracurricular opportunities due to the pandemic. We would offer marketing, PR, data analyst, leadership and tutor positions to students virtually (and) would also provide college recommendations letters and certifications for contributions,” he said. “These incentives would attract students in need of activities (and) we would use Instagram (mainly) to recruit new tutors.”

Maradugu and Shelke said the addition of tutors has helped FYBY conduct more than 50,000 tutoring hours for students within the last year. And despite the value in the help they and FYBY provide – homework, individualized help, content prep and personal devolvement – totaling approximately $35 per student per session, all is free.

They also explained that FYBY offers different types of tutoring services with different qualified levels of tutors, despite the sessions still being free.

A service that normally costs $70 would be run by one of their freelance tutors who teach for fun, while a $200 tutoring service would be led by a qualified individual, such as an ex-college professor. 

Maradugu said students could also get something that would qualify as an in-between price, and that would be determined on whether the tutor is a freelancer or from a test prep center, which has two entirely different kinds of teaching styles. 

“We calculate the value proportional to the number of hours instructed,” Maradugu said. “We realized that other centers would give loads of practice tests and not teach the content. Students’ memory retention would not operate normally just through working through practice tests 10 hours a day.”

When their tutoring gained more traction with students, it also turned the heads of more influential people publicly, too. 

“We got letters of support from federal government [Congress members] Deborah Ross (and) Richard Burr,” Maradugu said. “They recognized and thanked me for the creation of FYBY and commended me on civic engagement. They (also) thank(ed) me for helping other fellow students through free alternative tutoring and encouraged me to continue my work.” 

Maradugu and Shelke also confirmed FYBY leaders have met with people from Gov. Roy Cooper’s staff such as Geoff Coltrane, the governor’s educational advisor, Wake County’s School Program Director Brian Pittman and board member Kristine Kushner, and two members of Lt. Governor Mark Robinson’s staff, Liaison Nathan Lewis and Policy Advisor Johnathan Harris.

Shelke said he saw, just by being more involved and helping create course materials for tutors and being a tutor himself, saw his own scores jump more than 300 points.

“After scoring a 1500-plus on the SAT, (and) after toiling for three years, I decided that no one should suffer as I did and decided to teach the novel tactics that I created and employed in my test prep that raised my score (more than) 300 points,” Shelke said. “Through a few studies I researched before creating the program, I found if you are able to incorporate an individual’s interests in a learning environment you will successfully get their attention. Our point increase is measured through the use of diagnostic tests.”

FYBY currently has more than 15 courses it is actively tutoring in with more than 150 tutors.

On its website, which can be accessed here, it has a place to sign up for courses beginning at the sixth-grade level, all the way through college.

One can also sign up to become a tutor, explore frequently asked questions and learn more about FYBY’s mission.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending Stories

Click here for full list of trending stories