University of Memphis Students Serve as Mentors at Inner-city Schools
Malcolm Rawls, University of Memphis Graduate and Peer Power Tutor, Explains Algebra
Concepts to East High School Students
Fogelman College of Business and Economics (FCBE) students are actively giving back
to their communities by mentoring lower-income, local elementary, middle and high
school students. In addition to focusing on their own college-level academic development,
FCBE students are working with Peer Power, a non-profit organization that hires and
trains high-performing students to tutor and mentor their peers, encourage active
learning, value education and be personally accountable for their futures.
This philanthropic attitude is a critical element of the type of hands-on education
and personal development the business college at the University of Memphis is working
to instill within its students.
“Peer Power is great for our students because it allows them the opportunity to grow
as leaders and motivators while positively enforcing the value of education in a younger
generation,” said Dr. Rajiv Grover, Dean of Fogelman College. “By teaching others,
our students learn how to effectively communicate and, ultimately, become better-rounded,
educated, life-learners themselves.”
Currently, six undergraduate FCBE students including Brad Puckett, Darion Cooper,
Jeanne Whitesides, Charlie Harrell, Akia Prince and Dana Moore serve as part-time
mentors during the fall and spring semesters. Several days a week, they visit a school
that has struggled with poor student performance and tutor students in areas such
as in mathematics, language arts and sciences.
“Peer Power is a phenomenal program that is about bettering the lives of hundreds
of students, one day at a time. The name itself exemplifies how powerful this program
is. Through intensive commitment and dedication, complimented with wise leadership,
Peer Power is able to effectively transform the lives of students through education
and mentorship,” said Malcolm Rawls, a U of M graduate and Peer Power tutor. “With
the help of Peer Power, these students are able to recognize the unlimited possibilities
afforded to them within the community and the world. Peer Power creates a perpetuating
cycle of leadership development that molds the young minds of our future, builds their
academic and social skills, and converts them into productive global citizens.”
Since the inception of Peer Power, the program has seen extremely positive results.
Of students who attended tutoring last year, 100 percent passed their algebra Gateway
exam, compared to 72 percent school-wide. Of seventh and eighth-graders who were tutored,
100 percent passed the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) test last
year, with 51 percent scoring advanced in math. In addition, all of the tutors went
on to attend four-year colleges.
East High School Students Participating in the a Peer Power “Math Blitz”
“These results are possible because students energetically respond to tutors that
have faced similar experiences, especially those who came from economically disadvantaged
backgrounds,” said Bill Sehnert, director of Peer Power. “Many of our tutors attended
the same schools and confronted the same neighborhood challenges as the students they
are now mentoring. It’s important for our community’s youth to learn from other people
who overcame such obstacles by expounding on their education. It’s extremely effective
because it sets a powerful example – if they can do it, so can I.”
Peer Power was the brain child of successful entrepreneur and dedicated philanthropist,
Charles McVean. As an East High School graduate, he had grown increasingly troubled
by the poor performance of Memphis' public schools and believed that the American
free enterprise system held the remedy. Combining a performance-based compensation
model with the powerful effects of peer groups, he launched his unique student-to-student
tutoring concept at East High School. The program was successful and soon evolved
into Peer Power.
Today, Peer Power is active in several schools throughout Memphis and Mississippi,
serving more than 1,000 students every year. The program's progress is consistent
across all locations. In Shelby, Mississippi, standardized test passing rates leapt
from 37% to 91% for students enrolled in the program. In 2010, five Peer Power tutors
were valedictorians of their senior classes.
The schools who participate with Peer Power are Blue Mountain High School, Brewster
Elementary, East High School, Lester Middle School, Northside High School, Shelby
Middle School, Westwood High School and Whitehaven High School.
Yuri Branch, Peer Power Employee, and Charlie Harrell, FCBE Student and Tutor, Leading
a Small Focus Group