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Local teens launch free tutoring service helping kids across the world

A free online tutoring service started by two local teenagers has taken off, turning into a non-profit that is helping kids all over the world.

Charles Tang, 14, of Southborough, and Gracie Sheng, 15, of Northborough, cofounded Iridium Tutoring last summer and have since provided 700 sessions to more than 150 students in kindergarten through twelfth grade. Fifty volunteer tutors in high school and college provide lessons via Zoom in a vast range of subjects - even music and college admissions help - to students as far away as Central America and Asia.

“At first, it’s very surprising, because you don’t expect people from all the way on the other side of the globe to hear about you and learn from you,” Sheng said. “I find that being in touch with people from all different parts of the world that I’ve never been to before, it’s very inspiring to interact with them, to learn about their backgrounds and experiences.”

Iridium Tutoring applied to be a tax-exempt non-profit and was recently approved. While tutoring sessions are free, they now accept donations not only to cover operational costs but also with the goal of partnering with local charities and launching a scholarship program.

Tang, who started out helping friends solve intricate math problems, realized early on during the coronavirus pandemic that many students were struggling with remote learning. He and Sheng decided expanding the service could support many kids, especially the disadvantaged.

“I’m really surprised we’ve gone this far,” said Tang. “It’s been a really big part of my life as well.”

Stanley Che of Northborough signed up his 10-and 12-year-old daughters for the program not only to make sure they are caught up in their studies but also to provide something productive for them to do while spending so much time at home.

“It’s perfect,” said 12-year-old Pei-Chi Che. “The tutors are always funny and interacting.”

“I have learned a lot,” added her little sister Pin-Wei Che.

The girls have done dozens of lessons in mostly math and English.

“Especially considering this is volunteer work, I was very impressed. They come prepared and they know their subjects very well,” Che said of the teens. “Just the fact that they’re teenagers makes it even better, because their ages are closer. I’m very appreciative of what they’ve done.”

To sign up as a tutor or a student, or to donate to the program, visit their website here.