Duke startup Students Who Sit connects student babysitters and faculty in need of childcare

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Students Who Sit, a new venture co-founded by Duke sophomores Sydelle Bernstein, Raya Caldwell and Isabel Lehrman, is changing the game for student babysitters and faculty members in need of childcare. 

The online platform connects faculty members with students at their own institutions, said Bernstein, co-founder and CEO of Students Who Sit.

Bernstein, who grew up babysitting, noticed a lack of opportunities to babysit when she came to Duke. She felt that preexisting babysitting platforms were ill-suited for out-of-state college students.

“Going out into the middle of North Carolina to a house of people that I didn’t know felt anxiety-inducing for me,” Bernstein said. “I think being able to be connected to someone at your own institution allows for much more comfort.”

Bernstein was asked by multiple faculty members to babysit before she came up with the idea for Students Who Sit.

“I felt like giving them my phone number or contacting them through text was really informal and kind of awkward,” Bernstein said. “Developing some sort of platform to formally connect students to faculty members is something that could really alleviate this issue.” 

Landy Elliott, associate dean and chief of staff for Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, overheard Bernstein talking about the idea at the start of the school year. Her interest was piqued. 

“As an administrator, it can be awkward to ask a student out of the blue if they babysit, and I also don’t have a ton of time to post on job boards and interview folks,” Elliott wrote. “I was impressed by [Bernstein]’s initiative and warmth and believed it was worth giving it a try.” 

Bernstein and her fellow co-founders brought the idea to life this semester. They focused their efforts on building a functional website and marketing the site to acquire sitters and parents. 

The organization currently has around 40 active sitters and 50 active parents. The service is ad hoc, allowing students to accept jobs on a flexible, when-needed basis. 

Elliott used the organization to find sitters for her friends returning to Durham for their upcoming 20th Duke reunion. Students Who Sit was able to assign sitters to all 21 children, who are three to 12 year old. According to Elliott, Bernstein personally spoke to each of the sitters about the jobs. 

“I needed to find reliable caregivers for six different babysitting jobs in the same weekend — how else was I going to have access to such a large pool?” Elliott wrote. “And I loved the ease of going to one place to find them. I now have sitters lined up for everyone so we can enjoy the evening activities of Duke reunions.”

Junior Sydney Maynor enjoys the platform's flexibility and has used it to babysit three times thus far. She was connected with a family of Duke alums, one of whom is currently a Duke professor. 

“I’ve missed babysitting since high school. I wouldn’t know how to reach out to people [here], so something like this is really useful,” Maynor said. “It’s nice that it's a family that has that Duke connection, and it’s really convenient. I’ve been very happy with it so far.” 

According to Bernstein, the next step is developing a mobile app and replicating the service in other universities and institutions. 

“We could see this helping out faculty members all over the country, and we think the possibilities are endless,” she said. 

The co-founders hope to expand the scope of services beyond babysitting. Bernstein cites tutoring, sports coaching, dogsitting and LSAT prep as promising avenues.

They are also considering developing a training program that integrates CPR training, sexual assault prevention and background checks and could be administered to all registered sitters.

“I think it’s a really useful service for students and faculty,” Maynor said. “I’m looking forward to it expanding and improving.”

Kate Haver | University News Editor

Kate Haver is a Trinity sophomore and a university news editor of The Chronicle's 120th volume.      


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