History

A successful entrepreneur and dedicated philanthropist, Charles McVean 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.

 

Peer Power has shown consistent results in several schools throughout Memphis and Mississippi, serving more than 3,500 students. 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 rest of the country recognized our success as well. In 2011, Meah King, an English teacher and Peer Power Faculty Champion at East High School, won a Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award. The U.S. Department of Education named Peer Power the Division Winner for Out-of-School programs for its 2012 National Education Startup Challenge.

 

Peer Power then introduced the Memphis Model in partnership with Shelby County School and University of Memphis. The program employs over 100 University of Memphis “Success Coaches” who are trained to tutor and mentor students in classrooms at East High School and Whitehaven High School. This unique model strives to place two Success Coaches in every high school level math, science and English course tested by the State of Tennessee.

 

While a number of worthy efforts are trying to gradually reform school districts across America, Peer Power is making progress now by placing students in leadership roles that prepare them for lifetimes of success. Now that we know the model works, we see a terrific opportunity for bringing it to more students in more schools, which will require additional funding from a greater range of sources. Peer Power seeks partners who are passionate about changing the lives of children today.

I want to be somebody, someday!

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.