SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — Three Salem teens are offering a free online tutoring service to Oregon students statewide. Rising high school seniors Pranav Ramesh, Esha Puri, and Luke Clifton launched “ConnectOregonStudents” in March to help students distance-learning, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This was just kind of our way to adapting to our new environment and give back to the community,” Ramesh said.

The South Salem High School students completed their junior year this Spring, like many students, from in front of a computer screen.

“It’s not your quintessential junior year, senior year, or any year experience at all,” Clifton said. “Just the fact that you can’t talk to your teachers as often as before was honestly just really challenging on all of us.”

When coronavirus canceled in-person classes in March, the trio says they quickly realized the challenges that came with distance-learning. With their extracurricular activities canceled, the three best friends found themselves with extra time to spare, so they started brainstorming ways to help other students struggling to adapt. 

 “When we transitioned into distance learning the three of us ourselves we had some troubles transitioning into that learning atmosphere and kind of getting that work done online, but making sure you’re so understanding material,” Ramesh said. “We realized that maybe younger students were also having some troubles that we could maybe help out.”

Together they created “ConnectOregonStudents,” a virtual tutoring website that connects high school volunteers with students K-12. The program first began as a free online tutoring and peer-support program for students in Salem-Keizer schools, and now as of this month, it’s expanded statewide. 

“I was reaching out to elementary school principals for them to send the students and also contacting middle schools and high schools,” Puri said. “And now as of August .. we’ve been reaching out to all seven regions across Oregon, so I’ve been contacting people on the coast.”

Tutoring is available for subjects ranging from elementary math to middle and high school German. So far, more than 100 students have enrolled for the program and 30 volunteers have signed up to tutor. According to the program’s website, tutors must be enrolled in high school, under the age of 18 and pass a background check. Puri says another benefit of the program is that students can apply hours from “ConnectOregonStudents” volunteering towards their school club requirements.

“Most of our extracurriculars have been canceled and… seniors kind of need that for their college application resume, so we thought this would be a great opportunity for students looking for volunteer opportunities before the fall,” Puri said.

Extending a helping hand to students statewide, the trio hopes to further their tutoring services by partnering with school districts.

“We want to try and dedicate specific tutors to certain schools so that they have the resources that they need to give their students to succeed,” Clifton added. “We really just wanted to create ‘Connect Oregon’ to become a middleman in getting students some genuine connection during the pandemic.”

If you are interested in finding out more about “ConnectOregonStudents,” or would like to enroll for tutoring services or sign up to volunteer, click here.