Ethan Binder, a graduate of Moses Brown School and a junior at Lafayette College, was struck with inspiration as he watched his younger brother struggle to manage schoolwork and college applications. Binder’s brother was lucky to connect with a Brown University student who became a peer mentor to him, making Ethan wonder how many other high school students might be looking for mentorship from their slightly older peers.
Binder enlisted the help of two other Lafayette students, co-founders Zura Mestiashvili and Erik Laucks, to develop GoPeer.org, a website and mobile app with the mission of providing “convenient, affordable, engaging and highly effective education to all students.” Two other computer science and engineering students, Ezekiel Elin and Wassim Gharbi, have also been instrumental in setting up the GoPeer platform.
The premise is simple. Students (or parents) can search for a college student to tutor them in one of 49 subjects, with more subjects being added all the time, from Algebra to Test Prep to Oceanography to Music Production, based on a zip code. Users can also narrow the search by available days and times, college attended or distance.
The tutors are not only academically qualified; they are also personable and approachable. Many of them have prior experience in mentoring or otherwise working with younger students. For example, GoPeer tutor Fiona states in her profile, “I have worked formally with students in AP Biology, Precalculus, and AP Chemistry classes for the past two years. In addition, I tutor advanced English for foreign students/English Language Learners.” Brandon, currently a sophomore at Brown, formerly served as a Peer Mentor while he was in high school in Texas.
As Binder explains, “I wanted to make private tuition more affordable and accessible, so that more K- 12 students could experience the same learning environment that my brother was exposed to. A big focus for us is the idea of providing relatable, engaging and effective learning experiences through cross-age peer learning.”
Binder and his colleagues believe that their site allows students to explore their interests, extending learning outside the school day and providing something far more valuable than the online lessons available through Khan Academy or YouTube. As the GoPeer blog states, “With us, the process of learning stems directly from human interaction... Humans evolved as social beings and we often learn best in social settings. With this understanding, GoPeer hopes to humanize Google – to regain the human connection that is lost when a student just searches and answers questions with a computer.”
GoPeer is currently only available in the Providence area, although Binder’s ultimate goal is for the site to become a nationwide service. The program is looking for high school representatives and college tutors to help them expand their offerings and their reach. In the meantime, those of us here in Rhode Island are the first beneficiaries of Binder’s innovation.
Brown University to Replace Student Loans with Grants
Starting with the 2018-2019 school year, Brown University will replace all packaged student loan plans with grants that do not have to be paid back. This action will apply to all current and newly enrolled students, and will help to make a Brown education more affordable, allowing students to attend without acquiring thousands of dollars worth of debt. Dean of Admission Logan Powell believes that this step will make Brown more attractive to students and their families. “Every year, as thousands of talented students receive offers of college admission and consider their options, decisions often come down to the math. No student or family should be forced into the heartbreaking decision of whether to turn down admission because of the burden of loan debt.”
Mayor Elorza Commits $200M to School Infrastructure
Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza has announced a ten-year commitment of $200 million to Providence public school infrastructure. This announcement followed the public release of the report on the All In: Providence Education Summit held in April. Adeola Oredola, the summit coordinator, says, “It’s critical that we have school buildings that match our vision for learning in Providence. This is an opportunity to come together and make sure we’re creating the conditions for students and teachers to thrive.” The proposed process includes the appointment of a School Planning Consulting team and community engagement to develop a 5-Year Capital Plan to rehabilitate Providence school facilities. Mayor Elorza adds, “With the city’s finances improving, we can make investments in the things that really matter, like fixing our schools.” To read more about the plan, visit ProvidenceRI.gov.