Take it from Claire Cantrell: The job market is rough today.
“I submitted and still submit so many job applications, probably nearing 200 at this point, with very few followups and interview requests because everything is so saturated right now,” recalled the recent George Washington University grad.
Enter George Washington University 1L Ethan Shuchart. He’s not an employer with his own company. He’s simply a student.
But he’s a student who was able to give dozens of his peers substantial employment opportunities through his service, Students for Students. It connects people in undergraduate and graduate programs with parents looking for childcare options while they work remotely.
Childcare crises magnified
Shuchart did full-time research for one of his undergrad professors during the 2020 summer before starting law school. Fast-forward about six months as the pandemic began unfolding. As the COVID-19 crisis took shape, Shuchart followed the news that Washington, D.C., schools planned to go remote for the 2020–2021 school year. He knew parents would be scrambling for childcare.
“I have a lot of experience working with kids,” he said. “I was a part-time preschool teacher starting in high school and all through undergrad.”
Shuchart thought he could help a family in need. So the professor Shuchart worked for before law school posted Shuchart’s contact information in a Facebook group for his fellow Washington, D.C., neighborhood parents.
The result: Shuchart spent the next two full days—taking off work—just to field phone calls and texts from desperate parents who didn’t know what they were going to do with their children while they worked from home.
His own search for a part-time babysitting gig became a full-time job of sifting through all the requests—on top of the job Shuchart already had. “I just felt it was very hard to have to send 50 emails saying, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t help you,’” said Shuchart.
Instead, he posted on GWU undergraduate Facebook groups to see if other students were also looking for childcare job opportunities.
Again, Shuchart was bombarded with more responses than he could handle—200-plus replies from students and graduates looking for a steady paycheck.
Shuchart found himself in the middle of a problem he was uniquely situated to solve. “I figured if I could just throw together a digital bulletin board for my peers and give that information to families, I could be more helpful,” he said. “It would also take some of the pressure off me trying to match everybody up. That’s how the program got off the ground.”
Since launching the online Students for Students bulletin board, Shuchart says he has helped dozens of families and students connect. He now spends extra time between classes and homework posting additional information as necessary.
Remember Cantrell? Shuchart’s site was a lifeline for people like her. At the beginning of the pandemic, she was forced to move back to Washington, D.C., from Texas. When she arrived, she was jobless. As soon as Cantrell found out about Shuchart’s resource and signed up, she received texts and emails from more than two dozen people looking for childcare.
“I think it gave me an opportunity to have experiences I otherwise wouldn’t have had,” said Cantrell. “At the same time, it helped me find this amazing job that let me stay in Washington, D.C., and be able to pay my rent and live pretty comfortably given everything that’s happening. I feel really, really lucky.”
Shuchart stated that when he received the overwhelming response to his initial outreach, he felt obligated to help. “It’s just part of my personality,” he said.
That passion for helping others was partly why Shuchart applied to law school. But he stressed that you don’t need a law degree to provide a service to others.
“In law school and among my peers, especially in the public interest community at GW, a lot of people are really attuned to the ways their legal education can be turned back toward the community,” said Shuchart. “We need lots of lawyers in the legal field. But I also hope people realize you don’t have to be a lawyer to do really valuable things.”