Eagan high schooler’s online mission helps students globally with English and math

Tanisha Kota is paying it forward, one keystroke at a time.

"I knew that people were struggling," the Eastview High School senior recalls. "I decided to start the tutoring business because I knew I had to make a difference and help somehow."

As Minnesota and the rest of the country is grappling with the COVID-19 delta variant, Kota continues to expand her free tutoring website, geniusprep.org.

The 16-year-old from Eagan launched the site in June 2020, setting it up in just 24 hours and funding it with $150 she earned tutoring students.

The idea is to recruit high school students to teach kids — kindergarten through 8th grade — online.

"So I wanted to give that little push to people that were falling behind then," Kota remembers. "And now, it’s evolved into something that I just want to use to make a difference in other people’s lives and help them make learning fun."

Kota’s family says the effort started small with only four tutors, including her brother and mother.

"Getting the students is easy, getting a tutor is really difficult in the last year," Kota’s mother Jaya says. "Pretty much everybody wants to help the community. All they’re looking for is a common platform that can connect everything."

Fellow Eastview students took notice — and started volunteering.

High schoolers from other states, including New Jersey, Georgia, Florida, and Alabama joined in.

Student volunteers like Nagakishan Seemakurti say some of the tutors formerly went to the same schools as the students.

"It’s not exactly a replacement for a classroom, but I’m pretty sure this helps a lot of students," he says.

Seemakurti, a rising junior from Morris Plains, New Jersey, says his mother spotted the geniusprep website on the internet.

When asked if he gets something back from teaching the youngsters, Seemakurti said yes:

"It gives me the drive to learn how to teach them as well," Seemakurti explains. "I never really thought of teaching as a profession, but it seems like a fun thing now."

The site has a forum where parents can register. Kota vets the tutors themselves and coordinates linkups with students after getting approval from parents.

"Her Geniusprep is a platform for us to connect the people from all over the world," Jaya Kota says. "I feel proud about her."

Kota says everyone working in the tutoring effort is volunteering their own time.

She now has 65 students and 55 tutors in the program, with 150 online sessions a week. The website has had 7000 visits since it launched over a year ago.

She says there are students in France, Germany, Italy, South Africa, Nigeria and Singapore — 16 countries in all. Most of the students attend international schools, where English is taught. About a quarter speak Spanish or French, in which case Kota tries to connect them with tutors fluent in those languages.

She says, with the help of family and friends, she plans to continue tutoring throughout her senior year and beyond.

"I guess if you have a passion or if you want to do something, no matter your age, you’re going to do it," Kota smiles. "Just knowing I have this amazing group of people behind me makes this whole thing easier, and makes me become the person who I am today, just really determined, and excited for the future."