Wilton High School students are first and foremost students, but one group of WHS kids can teach the world a thing or two about being entrepreneurial, educational, charitable–and inspiring.

Just ask Andrew Noonan, a member of the WHS Class of 2018 who came up with the idea to start a tutoring service called the Learning Fund. The Learning Fund not only matches K-9 students in need of a bit of scholastic extra help with high-honor roll-attaining Wilton high schoolers who offer tutoring, but also donates any money the tutors earn to three local charities.

The idea took shape when Noonan tutored a friend’s younger brother over last summer. He knew that many families in town were willing to pay upwards of $100-$150 dollars an hour for a professional tutor to work with their children. “While that may be worth it in some cases like standardized test prep or for college essays, I think that some people might overpay for something that can be taught fairly easily by a high school kid,” says Noonan.

But Noonan also felt that any money that could be earned from tutoring could benefit others. “We didn’t want to lose any money, but we didn’t necessarily need to keep it for ourselves, so we decided to donate it to local charities. The charities I chose are Kick for Nick, Best Buddies Wilton, and PAWS, which are all local, so the money goes back to the community and its causes. The idea kind of just fell into place between having friends that tutor, kids that need cheap tutoring, and charities that need money,” he explains.

Noonan reached out to a handful of other juniors, who were eager to sign on as tutors and to help get the idea off the ground. They designed and launched a very user-friendly website and started marketing the Learning Fund on social media and through word of mouth.

Each of the tutors involved is a high honor roll student, and they all have experience working with younger students as camp counselors, tutors, and youth sports coaches. They offer tutoring in Math (K-8, Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry); Science (K-8, Biology, Chemistry); all levels of Spanish, French and English; Basic Reading and Writing; and other subjects upon request.

Tutors work at a suggested donation rate of $30 an hour–90% of which is donated to the charities sponsored by the Learning Fund. The remaining 10% helps cover basic costs for the tutors and the Fund itself, including gas and any learning materials the tutors themselves need. But according to Noonan, the charity aspect was an important part to the tutors giving their time.

“I’m involved in Best Buddies at the high school, and it takes donations to keep the club going every year. I figured if the club could spend more energy on doing what it wants, instead of fundraising, that would be great. Also, a lot of the tutors play soccer and have a connection to Kick for Nick, which has done great things over the years, so we made that another option. And lastly, we chose PAWS, simply because everyone loves animals, and would be happy to donate to an animal shelter. The three groups are all based locally or have a local chapter, so that the money goes back to the community,” he says.

While the tutors themselves don’t get paid for their work, it hasn’t been difficult to recruit student tutors. Noonan is actually fielding interest from other WHS teens who want to get involved.

“Most of them are my close friends, who kind of share similar goals and ideas, so they were quick to help out. I thought it might be hard to convince other people to join after that, but even after just one Facebook post, a couple kids have asked to join and help out which is great. I think after more people see the program get going and established, we’ll get more and more tutors on board,” Noonan says.

In addition to offering more affordable tutoring to Wilton families, Noonan also knows that the Learning Fund provides certain benefits by having tutors who are still students themselves.

“It’s way easier to connect to a fellow student, even if they’re a couple years older, than an adult. It won’t be perfect, but hopefully sessions will seem like less of chore and burden if you get to be with another kid for an hour. Also, I think that there’s an academic benefit to a student-tutor because we’ve often learned the information relatively recently and apply it often. For example, if the student is in algebra, and the tutor is in calculus, then the tutor uses nearly all of the algebra skills daily, and is practically a master by that time. It definitely helps to have learned the information recently enough for it to be fresh in our minds, but long enough to know it well. Lastly, another student can give some general help that a teacher often overlooks, like study tips, organizational habits, or good outside resources to help teach yourself and review,” Noonan explains.

The program is completely independent from Wilton High School, and the district has no involvement with it. Parents also should know that right now the Learning Fund isn’t set up as a non-profit so although parents can’t take any deductions for what they spend on tutoring, they may be able to do that at some point down the line. And Noonan’s intention is definitely to grow the Fund.

“I’m definitely excited for the potential of the program. Most of us are juniors, so we have another year and a half before we graduate. Ideally, we’ll connect with the schools which would help us grow really fast. Obviously, as we get more students that need tutoring, we’re going to need more tutors, so that’s definitely a priority for now as well as bringing in kids from other grades. And when we graduate, hopefully I’ll pass the program on to the next grade(s) to create something that lasts for a long time. After that, if the program keeps growing, it could be adapted into other school systems in the area. For now though, we’re just going to focus on expanding within the town and getting more people involved,” he says.

To find out more or to contact the program visit the Learning Fund website.