Jacob Williams

Jacob Williams

2021 Amazing Kids - The Outlook - Gresham
Age: 16
School: Corbett High School
Hometown: Gresham, Or
Why he is Amazing: Williams started a group of student tutors to help younger students with school work during the pandemic.

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Corbett student establishes tutoring service

Jacob Williams’ mom works in a Kaiser Permanente pharmacy.

As the COVID-19 pandemic was picking up steam, Williams’ mom was coming home exhausted from work every day. Although he didn’t need help with online school, Williams thought of other kids whose parents might not have the energy to help with remote learning after working all day.

So Williams decided to do something about it.

“I started realizing that myself and other high school students could so something to help in my community,” the Gresham resident said.

Over the summer of 2020, Williams started working with staff at Corbett schools to set up an online tutoring program. He created internet avenues to recruit eighth-12th grade students as tutors and get the word out to families who might want their kindergarten to eighth-grade students to be tutored. Then he matched up tutors with younger students who needed help, taking into consideration the students’ skills, needs and times that both were available. He wrote guidelines for the tutors to follow and protocols for the program.

“I wanted it to be a good experience for the tutors too,” he said.

Although 26 tutors signed up initially, Williams’ program eventually had 13-14 regular tutors who have served about 27 younger students.

The 16-year-old is tutoring five students himself, two in reading and three in math. He plans to continue the program even as students are returning to classrooms. Williams has made fans along the way.

“This young man helps my son, a sixth grader, with math and he’s just the best! I mean, he started this whole program himself and it’s just amazing!,” said Mikayla Heikkila via email.

Another parent, Amy Moulds, emailed the district to say, “We are working with Williams and he is amazing!! Trevor has come so far in reading and I know that is because of the work Williams does with him on Zoom. … I just needed to let someone know how well Williams is doing and how grateful I am for his help.”

Williams, a sophomore, has done other volunteer work, but said that work “was facilitated by someone else.”

He’s given time to food banks, the local Breakfast with Santa fundraiser and the school’s Sparrow Club, which raises money and supports a medically fragile child.

Williams boasts a 4.37 grade point average, plays saxophone in the school band, and plays and referees soccer.

Williams said the tutors get as much out of the program as the kids who were tutored. “I think an underrated impact of the program is the positive effect it has on the tutors themselves,” Williams told the district. “It feels amazing to be able to help someone reach that ‘Aha!’ moment in their learning, as well as feeling like you are positively impacting your community when we are all so disconnected from each other right now. In addition to the educational benefits, the program also presents an opportunity for scheduled one-on-one time with a friendly face for both the younger and older students.”

Creating the program “has taught me a lot. It was a good experience,” he added. Williams was also surprised by the community support he found.

“A lot of people out there want to see you succeed,” he said.

That worked both ways, with many people boosting his efforts and his tutors helping their younger colleagues succeed.

Williams’ big takeaway from the venture has been this — “If you recognize a problem, you can do more to solve the problem than you think.”