Students For Other Students Helps Everyone Grow

In business, an entrepreneur creates a product or process where none currently exists. Over the course of a career of more than 60 years, Toledo native and philanthropist Ford Cauffiel has earned more than 20 U.S. patents for creating products and processes for manufacturing and built successful new businesses around the world.

A person standing by a white-board.
Ford Cauffiel

But in 1989, when he learned of the impact of illiteracy on families and businesses here in Toledo and around the nation, he reached back into his business expertise to develop the Students for Other Students (S.O.S.) program.

“When you’re building a successful business it’s common to use cross training to teach good employees new skills,” said Cauffiel. In schools, “a child who is struggling will work better with a peer than an adult, and the student who is tutoring gets skills in communication, plus empathy towards others.”

After beginning in Perrysburg in 1989, the S.O.S. program is today in schools throughout northwest Ohio and other Ohio counties and in schools throughout the nation, reaching more than 20,000 students.

Partnering with schools to support kids

S.O.S. provides schools the financial support for them to establish peer-to-peer tutoring. Each school district develops its own tutoring programs, typically using older students to tutor younger students. Tutors are selected based on their expertise in specific study areas, and then trained in study skills and mentoring. They provide one-to-one instruction or assist in study groups, depending on the individual school.

Tutors are paid up to $8.00 per hour for two to four hours per week. Funding for the school is provided by S.O.S. (approximately $10,000 per school) and local funding sources (such as the school, Parent Teacher Associations and community organizations). Rotary International is now matching program contributions with S.O.S. to begin in-school programs. 

Each school is required to submit an annual evaluation of their program, measuring the effectiveness of the peer tutoring on grades, attendance, behavioral standards, test results and teacher reporting.

Thriving in a ‘new community’ at TSA

“It’s been really great” being involved in S.O.S. at Toledo School of the Arts (TSA), said Tutor Evelynn Sanford, who works in the school’s Homework Center and at study tables during the school day. She recalls one of the students she has tutored in mathematics, “She now has an A in math and is taking an honors class.”

two people posing for a picture.
Dave Gierke, TSA development director, with Tutor Evelynn Sanford.

TSA is a charter school drawing from as many as 30 school districts for 6th through 12th grade.

“Students from a variety of experience bases are essentially joining a new community,” when they arrive at TSA, explained Dave Gierke, school development director who wrote the request for S.O.S. support in 2014. More than a dozen students are currently serving there as paid tutors.

Students Sanford is tutoring had virtual training in elementary school during the pandemic. “They’re missing many fundamental skills from that time,” she said, so she works to improve those skills. Often students will ask for help with a particular assignment. “I’ll walk them through the steps, and then watch and assist them as they do the next exercise,” she explained. “Repetition helps a lot, especially with math exercises.”

Gierke said the program helps the tutor as well. “Teaching can allow a student like Evelyn to leverage her skills while she builds her own communication skills,” he said.  “Schools not involved in S.O.S. are missing an opportunity to help their students grow – on both ends of this process.”

For more information about the S.O.S. program, phone 419.843.5798 or email