New tutoring network matches students with students

Ciara McCarthy, Reporter

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This fall, about 15 local students are heading back to class with the help of a tutor — and, in many cases, a classmate.

The national tutoring company Peer2Peer Tutors opened its first branch in Evanston this summer, creating a network of students who are willing and able to tutor others from their own schools. Peer2Peer’s Evanston branch, which has been gradually increasing in membership throughout the summer, held a kickoff event Sept. 8.

The main idea behind Peer2Peer is that students, not adults, make the best tutors for other students. The company matches high-performing high school and college students with students in elementary, middle or high school who require their services.

Peer2Peer does not have a physical location in Evanston. It is run primarily by Mindy Wallis, regional educational advisor for Peer2Peer in the Chicago metropolitan area.

Wallis facilitates the tutoring process by connecting local kids and their parents with local tutors. Parents make an online profile on Peer2Peer’s website, and Wallis discusses students’ specific needs with parents. Wallis then matches the client with the tutor who is most appropriate for him or her.

Peer2Peer tutors are held to high standards, Wallis said. Tutors can fall anywhere in the range of a sophomore in high school to a senior in college, and must have an unweighted GPA of 3.8 and pass several rounds of interviews, according to Peer2Peer’s website.

The crux of Peer2Peer’s services is one-on-one tutoring, in which clients from kindergarten through high school can receive help in any subject they need. Peer2Peer also provides online tutoring for advanced AP/IB students, an SAT preparation program and a program called Peer+, according to its website.

Peer+ combines academics and extracurricular activities so that a tutor could, for example, work with a client on both math and computer programming, said Wallis.

Peer2Peer was founded by Erik Kimel, the current CEO, in 2004 when he was still a high school student in Maryland. Today, Peer2Peer is located in 15 locations around the country. Peer2Peer was acquired recently by the admissions counseling company Aristotle Circle, a merger that makes Aristotle Circle the largest company of its kind, according to a news release.

According to the Peer2Peer website, 60 percent of clients improve by one or more letter grades on their report card after using the service.

Wallis said that the program’s success comes partially because the model allows students to see upperclassmen as mentors and friends in addition to being tutors.

“The philosophy is that students really understand other students,” she said.

Peer2Peer employs 21 tutors in Evanston, from Evanston Township High School as well as Northwestern and other local schools. Wallis said that she is eager to hire more tutors from NU.

Weinberg sophomore Melina Yeh was hired by Peer2Peer in July and will begin working with her first clients this week. In addition to working as a tutor, Yeh also writes for Peer2Peer’s blog, which covers topics like education, SAT preparation and staying organized during the school year.

Yeh volunteered as a tutor in high school, and agreed to stay on with Peer2Peer as an employee.

“When you have a tutor who’s closer to your age, it’s easier to stay attentive because they kind of know where you’re coming from,” she said of Peer2Peer’s model.

Yeh said she looks forward to working with students because she enjoys the rewards that tutoring brings.

“I love that moment when they finally get it,” she said. “I love seeing that expression on their face of finally understanding and being able to put things together. And I love being able to help people get to that place.”