Connect Me Free Tutoring & Mentoring, a nationwide student-led nonprofit organization, has recently hit its 3-year anniversary. Connect Me’s mission is to give back and support the community as volunteers with a passion for tutoring and mentoring, focusing on students with low income or having attended virtual school because of the Coronavirus pandemic. Over the last three years, Connect Me has gone through its highs and lows, and it was quite the journey, to say the least.
Some of the major milestones Connect Me has hit since it started include being featured on Fox News in January of 2021, reaching a student count of 1000, starting up an internship program in February 2023 with USF, starting up an Oakman after-school tutoring program in the 2021-22 school year, and being one of the top tutoring nonprofits in the country. Now having over 1000 students being tutored under Connect Me, the nonprofit has reached across 8 different countries. Each of the 300+ members of Connect Me has contributed over 25,000 sessions tutored, totaling over half a million dollars worth of free tutoring.
The numbers are big, but the struggles were real. When Connect Me was first in the works, the founder, Mehmet Tascioglu, encountered a number of barriers along the way in starting up the nonprofit. “The initial infrastructure stages were difficult - formulating the student/tutor pairing process, producing marketing material, communication, etc. We overcame them through hours of hard work (sometimes 8+ hours/day).”
In the early stages, Tascioglu also struggled with finding the right people to invite to Connect Me. He struggled with picking and choosing friends whom he knew would form a good team while trying to not damage any friendships along the way.
However, many external factors fostered the growth of Connect Me. The Detroit channel for Fox News found out about Connect Me in 2021 and featured the organization on TV. Once aired, Connect Me experienced a large influx of students who needed tutoring. Camille Johnson, Connect Me’s Director of Public Relations, claims that being featured on a news channel showed physical proof of the positive impact Connect Me had wherever it left footprints.
Another factor that helped foster the growth of Connect Me was the people Tascioglu picked for the team while Connect Me was in the works. Now making up the Board of Directors, Mehmet Tascioglu, Kaustuv Mukherjee, Camile Johnson, and Meghana Ramoju still hold a close relationship with each other while serving (and intend to continue serving) Connect Me to this day.
The Board of Directors, Executive Board, and Committees (also known as the backbone of Connect Me) helped structure the organization and keep everything well-executed to have the nonprofit run successfully. Tascioglu conveys, “The Board of Directors, Executive Board, and Committees are all led by some of the smartest, most resourceful individuals I've met.”
Tascioglu initially expected Connect Me to stay based in the local southeast Michigan community, but it has branched out much farther than that. It has now reached 33 countries over the span of the last three years and now features tutors as well as students all over the US. “When we started,” he says, “our family was small. We could check in with every tutor-student pairing. Now that our family is much larger, we can't check in with everyone individually, but we still have the same love for all our students and tutors.”
When Johnson was invited to Connect Me, she learned the importance of giving back to the community. Most high school students, including her, tended to join organizations and clubs solely for service hours, however, Johnson found herself greatly passionate about giving back to the community after she started tutoring. She says that one thing about the organization that touches her the most is whenever her student's parents would “come to talk to me after the session saying that their kid not only enjoys the sessions but are actually retaining what I’m teaching.”
Johnson also claims that the aspect of Connect Me she is most proud of is actively tutoring over 1000 students. She recalls when the organization hit its 100th student and being able to celebrate that, but the journey of coming along over the span of the last three years touches her the most.
One of the most distinguishing features of Connect Me is that it is 100% student-run. Hasini Anand, Connect Me’s current secretary, emphasizes, “Our organizational/leadership system is unlike anything else I’ve seen. It’s so comprehensive and fosters the efficiency we need.” With the right people driven by a deep desire to make a difference, Connect Me will continue to grow more and more in the years to come.