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Staples Junior Finds His Calling In Tutoring Fourth-Graders In STEM

Staples High School junior Arun Soni as the only Connecticut high school student to be named a finalist in the Siemen’s Competition for Math and Science.
Staples High School junior Arun Soni as the only Connecticut high school student to be named a finalist in the Siemen’s Competition for Math and Science. Photo Credit: Hal Levy

WESTPORT, Conn. -- Sunrise Rotary in Westport honored Staples High School junior Arun Soni as its May Student of the Month on Friday for his work in tutoring fourth-graders in math and science.

Soni started out tutoring as a sixth-grader, helping a fellow Tae Kwon Do fourth-grade student with his math.

Once at Staples, Soni became more formally involved in tutoring through Mousomi Bhattacharya, an associate professor at the Dolan School of Business at Fairfield University. She formed the Fairfield Enrichment Club, an organization creating a “culture of service" around tutoring.

Club tutors help elementary school students build skills in the STEM subjects — science, technology, engineering and math — and they help older students prepare for competitions in those subjects.

Soni formed the club’s Westport chapter. Through it, he and four fellow Staples students hold weekly math and science tutoring sessions in his home for a dozen fourth-graders.

He called Nicholas Morgan, a Staples physics teacher, an “inspiration” for teaching him to use humor to make students receptive to learning, and showing him the importance of preparation.

Soni's curriculum centers on the National Math and Science Initiative, a program working to strengthen the teaching of STEM subjects.

He said he likes fourth-graders because they “want to learn for the pure enjoyment of the subject.”

That said, part of his challenge is that the young students don’t know about algebra, equations or formulas. But they are logical, they can reason their way through the class problems, and they learn the “whys” behind the problems, Soni said.

Soni jokingly described himself as “Indian-American … I’m a nerd, and I wear it as a badge of honor.”

He recently garnished those nerd credentials as the only Connecticut high school student to be named a finalist in the Siemen’s Competition for Math and Science — the nation’s premier competition in math, science and technology.

Outside the nerd world, Soni is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

Soni closed by telling Sunrise members that his grandfather was a Rotarian in Bangalore for over 50 years: How rewarding to honor a young man who practices Rotary’s motto, “Service Above Self.”

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