Kidsburgh Hero Sasha Likhachev created Teens4Tutors to help kids during the pandemic

Photo: Sasha Likhachev, founder of Teens4Tutors.

Sasha Likhachev had tutored kids in her Squirrel Hill neighborhood for almost four years when the Covid pandemic struck. The 17-year-old Winchester Thurston School student learned that remote learning was not meeting the needs of all kids. Some mothers she knew were concerned about online instruction.

“The education their children was receiving wasn’t very good,” Sasha says. “With the kids being online, it was hard for the kids to focus and get their assignments done.”

To help middle school students with their studies, Sasha created Teens4Tutors. The small business employs high school students to serve as tutors. Sasha screens applicants through conversations with parents, teachers and school administrators. High school kids interested in joining the tutor team can apply here.

The first session is free, then tutoring costs $10 per session, with Sasha monitoring the interactions.

“It’s an opportunity for me to see how well the tutors are doing their jobs and help them out and sort of guide them along,” she says. “Not all of them have been tutors, especially for middle schoolers.”

Lance Nichols, a junior at Winchester Thurston, with Tiffany and David Stuckey during a tutoring session.

One subject is particularly in demand: math. Kids seek help with English and reading, too. Other subjects include science, history and writing.

Before setting up the business, Sasha sought help from her parents, Alla Safonova and Max Likhachev, both of whom have backgrounds in computer science and have experience starting businesses. But Sasha gives most of the credit for the success of Teens4Tutors to her grandmother, Tanya Likhatchev.

“When I first started tutoring, she helped me figure out the structure and what the kids need and how to go about teaching them and how to get their work done,” Sasha says of her grandmother. “She was a huge help.”

Sasha consulted with David Nassar, the computer science department chair at Winchester Thurston. Nassar was impressed that Teens4Tutors not only satisfied the requirements of entrepreneurship but that Sasha met “a broader need she saw in her community.”

The Teens4Tutors’ platform is a win-win for everyone, Nassar says.

“Middle school-aged students look up to and admire high school-aged students, so having a mentor or tutor who is an enthusiastic learner can be inspirational for them,” he says. “For the tutors in the program, this type of work not only provides an opportunity for them to solidify their understanding of coursework, but also provides them with a way to practice the important skills of interpersonal communication and time management.”

While Teens4Tutors has been useful to the academic development of kids, it has also provided an outlet for those who feel isolated during the pandemic. When recruiting her student clients, Sasha emphasizes the mentoring aspect of the platform.

“Right now, you can’t talk to teachers and you can’t be out with friends as much,” she says. “So instead of talking to your classmates, you’re talking to these older students who are so much like you. They can connect with the tutors and see how great growing up can be, not just academically, but socially.”

Sasha, a junior, plays competitive soccer in addition to her schoolwork and running Teens4Tutors. So far, she’s not making any money from the venture because she refuses to take a salary or get paid an hourly rate for her time.

“It’s more important for me for the tutors to have motivation and for the parents to get what they need at an affordable price,” Sasha says. “I’m not concerned about the money aspect of it.”