Stevenson senior's entrepreneurial spirit helps other students achieve success
Though he was operating on only four hours of sleep, Matthew Zalewski showed no signs of slowing down.
The Stevenson High School senior has been working in high gear since last fall when he launched Epiphamatics, a tutoring company specializing in math support for elementary and middle school students.
"Math has always been my strong suit," said Zalewski of Buffalo Grove, who has always been quick to help fellow students with questions related to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects.
It was only a matter of months ago when Zalewski's entrepreneurial spirit kicked in and he began forming the idea for Epiphamatics. He was looking for an idea to gain some financial independence.
"I wanted to make money, and try getting off my allowance," he said.
The idea to create a tutoring company came to him during the spring of his junior year in high school. When he approached his parents, Dorothy and Dale, they were supportive and offered their own expertise and experience in business development and management.
"Dad suggested I actually work at a tutoring place first," recalled Zalewski, who went on to spend several months employed by a local company to learn about the business and hone his own instructional style.
This fall, Zalewski was ready to launch Epiphamatics -- a name he created to combine the "epiphany moments" he hopes his students will achieve as they study mathematics and other subjects. He set up an interactive website to help parents and students request appointments, and did his best to market the fledgling company -- while also carrying a full load of classes.
"Things really didn't take off until October, when one of my teachers, Mr. Sherwin, vouched for me and spread the word," Zalewski said.
Greg Sherwin said it was an easy thing to support Matthew in his venture.
"He is an incredible person and a great visionary," explains Sherwin, who taught Zalewski in his Advanced Placement Government class at Stevenson.
"Matthew and I were talking after class one day when he told me about Epiphamatics. That entrepreneurial spirit was exactly what I had seen in class. He is a visionary, and beyond that he is someone who has the hard work ethic to get things done and the social skills to work with others to build a company."
One of the first students to sign up for Epiphamatics was Sherwin's son, Dylan.
"Honestly, having my son go see Matthew for math enrichment was a no-brainer," Sherwin said. "And after the first session, my son came home and gave me a big hug, telling me how awesome it was. If someone can get a fourth-grader thinking that math is awesome and fun, then he has a special talent."
Dylan's mother, Heather, agrees. A teacher at Prospect High School, she would be considered an expert at teaching a math lesson. Even so, she sees tremendous value in her son's tutoring sessions.
"I think you get to a place where you can only do so much as a parent," Heather Sherwin said. "We've got a person who knows his stuff and is a young person. Kids are more receptive to that. Matthew is able to reach out and connect."
Dylan, who attends Aspen Elementary in Vernon Hills, said he has encouraged others to consider working with a tutor, especially Matthew.
"I would tell them that if you want extra help and if you want somebody who is really nice to help you with your math, you should go there," he said. "Whenever I get something wrong, (Matthew) helps me understand it and he doesn't really care about the wrong answer -- he cares how to help me."
Epiphamatics is booming, with Zalewski now spending as many as 20 hours per week helping young students build understanding and confidence, as well as manage the business end of the operation.
"I am not in a sport any more," explains the extremely busy high school senior. "This is my sport now."
He has expanded his company by employing additional tutors, hand-chosen for their academic excellence and ability to connect with young students. The team now includes fellow Stevenson students Jaymo Kang, Ashley Kang, Nicole Chen, Sam Zaritsky, Shravya Gogula and Jesse Kesner.
Zalewski is not sure exactly what the future holds. He is considering colleges, and looking at ways to build upon Epiphamatics' successes. While "free time" is not in his vocabulary, he has no regrets about the company he has started and the good work he is doing.
Zalewski strongly encourages others to follow his lead.
"If you have a passion, if you have something you enjoy doing, go for it."
For more information on Epiphamatics, visit www.epiphamatics.com.