Peer Power is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization innovating the public education system by inspiring and empowering youth to take control of their academic success. A successful entrepreneur and dedicated philanthropist, East High School graduate Charlie McVean founded the program in December 2004 to address poor performance in Memphis’s public schools. Combining an incentive-based compensation model with the influential effects of peer groups, he launched his unique student-to-student tutoring method at East. The program was an immediate success and swiftly evolved into Peer Power.

After a decade, Peer Power streamlined its strategy and enhanced the methods demonstrated to be most effective. This process culminated in the Memphis Model, a partnership between Peer Power, the University of Memphis and Shelby County Schools, that recruits high-performing college students known as Success Coaches to tutor public high school students in the classroom. This model improves grades, standardized test scores, and college and job readiness. In addition to academic benefits, Peer Power provides an opportunity for college students to gain job experience and the financial means to stay in school. The Memphis Model incorporates Success Coaches in the classroom, with a goal to reduce the student-to-adult ratio from 1:30 to about 1:10. This lower student-to-adult ratio improves the job satisfaction and performance for full-time teachers, leading to higher job satisfaction and retention of valuable teachers.

Structure

The Memphis Model” is a unique partnership of the University of Memphis (24,000 students), Shelby County School System (110,000 students) and Peer Power. It also combines market-based approaches with youth empowerment and educational practices.

The Peer Power Institute has been established at the University of Memphis adjacent to the Dean of the Department of Education in Ball Hall. This partnership will enable Peer Power, Shelby County Schools, and the University of Memphis to create an environment of collaboration to ensure the success of our students and Success Coaches. 

Peer Power started the 2018-19 school year with 122 Success Coaches who received 48 hours of summer training at the University of Memphis and participate in Monthly Motivators, professional development training sessions aimed to sharpen their skills. The total number of hours committed by Peer Power for training will approach 10,000 by May 2019.

Peer Power also operates ACT Prep University, which served students from Shelby County Schools in 2018. The goal of this program is to get test scores to a 22, the minimum for Shelby County students to be eligible for Tennessee state-funded scholarships.

Mission

Peer Power’s mission is to inspire and empower youth to take control of their academic success.

Our Assignment

Peer Power recruits, employs, and trains high-performing college students, called Success Coaches, to tutor and mentor high school students, encourage active learning, value education, and be personally accountable for their futures.

I want to make my future TEN TIMES BETTER!

Kylea Spradley

I am currently a sophomore studying Biomedical Engineering at the University of Memphis. I also work as a success coach for Peer Power at East High School and I absolutely adore my job. The satisfaction from helping and encouraging young scholars is an overwhelmingly positive feeling that fills me with determination to constantly do better not only in my educational life, but in my personal life too. I take great pride walking into East High School knowing that I am not only a resource for the students, but also a mentor. I am that friend to talk to when something is going on, or even the outside opinion on a situation that shines the light onto a new viewpoint.

Peer Power to me is helping motivate students to graduate on time, and with dignity. Peer Power to me means inspiring that scholar to take the ACT again and raise their score, even if it is just by one more point. That one point can be the difference of a 2,000-dollar scholarship for college. Peer Power to me is getting the students excited for the endless possibilities past graduation, whether it be college or joining the work force. Peer Power to me is igniting the fire of determination and motivation under every student, and to welcome them into our world, post high school, with arms wide open, as that shoulder to lean on, as that support system when they need it.

Another reason why I love Peer Power so very much, is that it helps me to revisit old topics that I may have forgotten about when I was in high school. In turn, it benefits me in my college classes. As a biomedical engineering student, I take a ton of math classes. As a math success coach at East High, I get a refresh on topics that I haven’t seen in a long while, And if I am able to explain a topic, such as proofs in Geometry or absolute value functions in Algebra 2, to a student who may or may not have seen said topic before and for the students to understand it even just a little better, then I know that I fully understand the topic myself.

The relationships I have built during my time as a success coach at East High School are ones I will remember forever. Whether it be with my team leads, my teacher, students, and even other success coaches, the entirety of it all feels like a second family. I know that I have a support system at Peer Power, one that will always be there to pick me up when I am down, to congratulate me when I succeed, and one I can reply on in the future of my academic career.