DANVILLE -- Students who hit mental roadblocks while studying can get past those problems with a few clicks of the computer mouse, whether they live in the Bay Area or Bangladesh.
The TeenMesh website pairs stumped students with peers eager to provide free answers and guidance to students with Internet access.
"There are a lot of students, underprivileged kids, who don't have the resources at home to get help with homework or they don't have money for tutors," said Neil Gupta, TeenMesh founder. "I thought, 'Why not do this online?' Any underprivileged kid from any nation can use this site as a resource."
What's amazing about TeenMesh is that the website was created when Gupta was just 15 years old. He came up with the idea after two years of living with his family in India, where he tutored disadvantaged students through a program at the American Embassy school.
"It was an after-school program called Teach India," Gupta, now 16, explained. "The kids from the slum areas and the poor areas of New Delhi would come to my school, and we would teach them English and math in a peer-to-peer way. I met some kids who have a great amount of talent but don't have a lot of money or don't have the opportunities that I have."
Gupta, a junior at Danville's Monte Vista High School, started to develop TeenMesh in November 2012 and launched the free website in January 2013.
"TeenMesh is a peer-to-peer homework help site," he said. "You can either ask a question or you can help someone out and answer questions. You don't have to be one or the other. You can do both. Students help each other out and get help from other students at the same time."
The site boasts 1,700 users from 70 countries. Nearly 1,300 questions in more than 1,200 categories have been answered. The site is free, but students must register first to help keep the site legitimate and free of pranksters.
"You can view the questions and answers without registering," Gupta said, "but to ask a question or answer a question, you have to sign up."
He is quick to credit his team of teen helpers with the site's success. There are four key students who work with Gupta to keep the site vital and spread the TeenMesh word.
"What I like about the website is that you can help anyone across the world who doesn't have the same resources you do," said Armaan Sengupta, a Dublin High School freshman who helped Neil launch and maintain the website.
TeenMesh varies from other question-and-answer websites because it's focused entirely on education, noted Sengupta, who enjoys answering straightforward questions like those from math or history.
"If you have a good idea of what the answer is, that might make a difference to the person's life who asked the question," he said. "You can make a difference in their education and in the world."
Janet Terranova, the Monte Vista High principal, is impressed with Neil and Armaan's eagerness to help students worldwide.
"It's amazing for a number of reasons," she said. "You have two teenagers who care that deeply about other people and their fellow students to try to make a difference in people's lives. They didn't just think about it; they did something."
And, "They've been able to sustain it," she added. "They have over 1,700 customers. They're able to bring in other people who can help and act as tutors. Word-of-mouth has allowed other people to go on and see how they can help."
Terranova, a big supporter of community service, is impressed with how students in relatively affluent areas looked beyond themselves to help students who are less fortunate.
"This is really good for students who don't have the same resources that a lot of our students have," she said. "This is something that is helping the greater good. But it's also taking a minute to say, 'What do some teenagers really need?' We're talking about a resource that they need that they don't have. That's important. It shows the ability to think globally and act locally."
Gupta hopes the website keeps expanding with more users and hopes to find sponsors to fund its growth so that he can reward his most prolific tutors.
"We want to award people who have the most points for answering questions," he said, noting that rewards would most likely be gift cards. "We need a sponsor to get that going, like a local business." Finding sponsors would also give TeenMesh funding to help expand the website's reach.
"When you start a website, nobody knows about it," Gupta said. "Spreading the word and marketing it is the difficult part. We don't have money to market it, so we're using word-of-mouth or spreading it through our connections. We mostly use Facebook."
In the meantime, Gupta and his team of hardworking teens continue to answer questions, monitor the website's questions and answers and spread the word through social media to help TeenMesh grow.
"I hope to spread it throughout the world, mainly throughout other countries," Gupta said. "I really want to get sponsors as well so that we can get the site to grow quickly and benefit more and more people."
"I'd like to see it grow really big," his buddy, Sengupta, added. "I'd like to see questions asked every second, and every second that question would be answered. I'd like to see everyone on the street talking about TeenMesh."
Learn more about TeenMesh, volunteer as an ambassador, or use the site for tutoring help or answer questions, at teenmesh.com.