Like many youth in the District, Kennedy Solaru began her work career at a summer job earning a small income. Unlike most kids in the city and East of the River, however, Kennedy started her own business by tutoring other students online in Mandarin.
The CEO, who turned 14 on October 20th, entered a nation-wide virtual think tank competition this summer in July for children and earned the audience’s most favorite title. Despite not winning the competition, the enthralling experience gave Kennedy further impetus to continue her business. Kennedy, an only child, has lived since birth with her parents in the District, east of the river.
How the Business Started
Kid’s Tutoring Service started in March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic caused school closures in the District and surrounding counties and forced students to engage in online learning. The idea to start the business, with the motto “For Kids By Kids,” was launched inside the family’s townhouse to aid other students. Her business email, which is monitored by her mother and consultant, is firstname.lastname@example.org. The Instagram account is @kidstutoringservices.
“When I was in school, we had two levels of school for students learning Mandarin. I was in Level II. Students in Level I came to me and asked questions. I liked helping them out. They were more comfortable coming to me (a peer) than their teachers. Some kids learn better when a friend is teaching them rather than an adult or teacher,” said the adolescent educator and public speaker who currently has 10 clients.
One of those clients is eight-year-old Treandos Thornton. Kennedy has a weekly session with him that lasts 30 to 60 minutes. According to Treandos’ mother, her son is ecstatic about his tutor and looks forward to their online educational sessions.
“We saw a post on Instagram with Kennedy participating on a panel. I thought that was interesting since my son has been taking Mandarin since kindergarten,” said Shana Thornton, a public information officer for the city of Atlanta. “Kennedy and Treandos connected on so many levels. He and his five-year-old brother Noah are also entrepreneurs here. They started making and selling bowties and became retailers (www.tnbowties.com). Kennedy has been so inspiring.”
Education and Background
Kennedy started learning Mandarin at the age of four at Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School in their immersion program. She attended the public charter school located in northeast from pre-kindergarten to the 5th grade. She is currently enrolled, as an 8th grader at Whittle School & Studios located at 3007 Tilden Street, NW, where she began in the seventh grade when their District campus opened in 2019.
Whittle boasts of being the first global school in the District when they simultaneously opened the campus here along with the one in Shenzhen, China. The prestigious school also has a campus in Brooklyn, N.Y. with plans to open more campuses around the nation in the upcoming years.
Perhaps Kennedy’s biggest educational inspiration comes from her two biggest cheerleaders – her parents Ola and Carolyn Solaru.
Celebrating Bilingual Children
October is designated as the time to acknowledge bilingual children for their unique skillsets and efforts to unify communities, countries and the entire cosmos. Language Lizard, an educational company based in Basking Ridge, N.J., founded Celebrating the Bilingual Child Month in 2006 to recognize the many children who converse in two or more languages and appreciate multiple cultures.
Children who speak two or more languages prove to be insightful students in the classroom. As the world continues to grow and become more diverse, students in their pubescent years can be encouraged to become cultural ambassadors that highlight multiple similarities rather than the lesser, insignificant differences.
“She is probably one of the most persevering and hard working out of all of my students,” said Yifei Huang, a long-time tutor-coach of Kennedy who occasionally instructs her depending upon the teenager’s busy schedule. “I don’t need to track her time. She is (always) prepared.” Huang, a Chinese native who is fluent in Mandarin, started coaching Kennedy when the young entrepreneur was only in the third grade. She tutors about 25 students on a regular basis in the region.
Future Goals and Aspirations
Kennedy took and passed the Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK Level III) test in December 2019. The examination assesses test takers’ abilities in the application of everyday Mandarin. It is the counterpart of the Level III of the Chinese Language Proficiency Scales for Speakers of Other Languages and the B1 Level of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEF).
If she passes the final three levels as a non-native speaker, Kennedy would be eligible for full tuition at the top universities in either Beijing or Shanghai.
As our nation’s economic and political connections to China become more intertwined, it is vital that American students, like Kennedy, can fully communicate and interact with their Asian counterparts.
“I hope to scale my business to teach other kids to share their language. I am interviewing children and kids who are interested in tutoring on my platform,” Kennedy responded after being asked about her future goals. “I want to prepare students to become global citizens so they will be advanced in the future and now.”
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