Knowing he and his peers were entering a disastrous COVID-19 job market, a law student developed an online service for D.C.-area students to connect with local families looking for babysitters.
Ethan Shuchart — who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science this spring and previously contributed to the Hatchet — founded Students for Students DC, which more than 90 undergraduate and graduate students have used since its launch over the summer. He said the service aims to help students looking for work during the pandemic and assist families living in the District who are dealing with the added pressure of online school for their children.
“I know COVID has not only impacted these families being able to send kids to school, but it has affected work opportunities for [college] students,” Shuchart said.
When he nannied for D.C. families while an undergraduate at GW last academic year, Shuchart said he was “overwhelmed” by babysitting requests from families when D.C. schools announced an entirely digital semester. The law student said he had already committed to one nanny job in the fall, but he told the families he would search for a few other student caregivers that might be willing to help out.
Shuchart posted an interest form on Overheard at GW that 200 students responded to, prompting him to build a website where interested students and families could connect.
“I figured instead of me taking the time to sit and sort through the list – go family by family, GW student by GW student and match everyone up – I could save myself some trouble by just throwing something together online real quick,” he said.
Parents and guardians can browse through the profiles of students interested in child care on the website. The students’ profiles include their preferred age group to work with, the type of services they’re willing to offer and their contact information.
Interested families can decide on the job description, what type of COVID-19 precautions the caregiver must undertake to work with children and negotiate wages with the student, he said.
“For example, I usually work with really young toddlers and those parents are looking really just for babysitting, literally somebody to be in the room with their kid and keep them entertained and safe,” he said. “But there are some parents with older students, like elementary schoolers, who need a bit more academic assistance and help facilitating the online learning.”
When he’s not in classes, Shuchart said he nannies a 1-year-old in the area for 12 hours every week. Besides basic tasks like providing snacks and changing the toddler’s diaper, Shuchart said he has been taking the toddler to the park and playing around the the house.
Shuchart added that he’s relied on parents to promote the site on email lists or neighborhood Facebook pages. He said students interested in featuring themselves on the website should contact him directly to get started by using his email found on the website.
Claire Cantrell, a 2020 alumna, said she used the site because she wanted to reconnect with her passion of working with children while she searches for a permanent post-graduation job. Within 24 hours of posting her profile online, she was connected by Kate Crawford, a mother who was looking for an assistant to supervise her child and seven other kindergarteners during the school week.
She works inside Crawford’s garage, which morphed into a temporary classroom fit with computers, school supplies and desks. Cantrell said her main responsibilities include helping students with in-class activities, leading games and projects during the children’s breaks and tutoring students who need extra help on assignments.
Cantrell added that because many of the children’s parents are essential workers, all adults agreed that the children and helpers should wear masks in Crawford’s house, which the kids have followed.
“I think I was surprised a little bit by how aware they were [about COVID],” she said. “They understand why they have to wear them – they understand not to share germs.”
Crawford said the site helped her get a better idea of what kind of service each student could offer through their individual profiles. She added that she’s recommended the site to other parents in the area who are looking for babysitters and tutors.
Crawford said she ultimately chose Cantrell because she is available every day and can speak Spanish, which helps her communicate with the kids.
“We’ve been really impressed – she has a really good manner with the kids,” Crawford said. “We have eight kindergarten boys and so its an energetic crowd. It can be challenging at times, but she is always really calm.”