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 must always work harder than others.

Jennifer Williams

I am a Junior at the University of Memphis, and my majors include criminal justice and social work. I work at East High School as a Success Coach within Peer Power. First and foremost, Peer Power is more than just a job. Peer Power is fellowship and understanding combined with the encouragement and tools needed to be the best that I can be, both in and outside of work. It’s taking that encouragement and those tools and empowering high school students to do the same. Peer Power has impacted me as an individual by giving me the opportunity to positively impact the lives of students, teachers, and my peers, as well as giving me life skills that I will utilize throughout my entire life.