Before launching Accessible Tutors, I tutored in Montclair for two years. The experience of teaching was incredibly rewarding, and I was helping kids succeed. However, from early on this good feeling was incomplete: for every kid I could work with, there was another kid struggling without help.
My first approach to this problem was to look at some of the free programs in Montclair. What I found was a mix, some really great programs that do a great job to help combat the achievement gap. IMANI, an organization that specializes in academic opportunity for minority students, and succeed2gether, a free tutoring program for low income families, come to mind. On the other hand, I also saw programs in which high schoolers were looking for ways to fill out community service hours. What I didn’t see was a program that built commitment in students and tutors, provided one-on-one help rivaling what a paid tutor can provide, and had a simple no questions asked registration process.
A big question I’ve been asked is why not make the program a simple free volunteer program. Here’s why the pay-what-you-can model is superior: by paying, students are making a sacrifice that increases seriousness, focus, punctuality, and attendance; for tutors, you see the same increases in seriousness, focus, punctuality, and attendance, as well as increased quality and widening of the applicant pool– from those who are able to donate time, to both students who need to earn income and those that are able to volunteer. All of this is achieved while maintaining the availability of a volunteer program with the pay-what-you-can model.
–Owen Kaplan, Accessible Tutors Founder and Project Manager