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FCBE Students Inspiring Others through Peer Power
University of Memphis Students Serve as Mentors at Inner-city Schools

For release:  June 12, 2013

Malcolm Rawls, University of Memphis Graduate and Peer Power Tutor, Explains Algebra Concepts to East High School Students
Malcolm Rawls, University of Memphis Graduate and Peer Power Tutor, Explains Algebra Concepts to East High School Students

Fogelman College of Business and Economics (FCBE) students are actively giving back to their communities by mentoring lower-income, local elementary, middle and high school students. In addition to focusing on their own college-level academic development, FCBE students are working with Peer Power, a non-profit organization that hires and trains high-performing students to tutor and mentor their peers, encourage active learning, value education and be personally accountable for their futures.

This philanthropic attitude is a critical element of the type of hands-on education and personal development the business college at the University of Memphis is working to instill within its students.

“Peer Power is great for our students because it allows them the opportunity to grow as leaders and motivators while positively enforcing the value of education in a younger generation,” said Dr. Rajiv Grover, Dean of Fogelman College. “By teaching others, our students learn how to effectively communicate and, ultimately, become better-rounded, educated, life-learners themselves.”

Currently, six undergraduate FCBE students including Brad Puckett, Darion Cooper, Jeanne Whitesides, Charlie Harrell, Akia Prince and Dana Moore serve as part-time mentors during the fall and spring semesters. Several days a week, they visit a school that has struggled with poor student performance and tutor students in areas such as in mathematics, language arts and sciences.

“Peer Power is a phenomenal program that is about bettering the lives of hundreds of students, one day at a time.  The name itself exemplifies how powerful this program is.  Through intensive commitment and dedication, complimented with wise leadership, Peer Power is able to effectively transform the lives of students through education and mentorship,” said Malcolm Rawls, a U of M graduate and Peer Power tutor. “With the help of Peer Power, these students are able to recognize the unlimited possibilities afforded to them within the community and the world.  Peer Power creates a perpetuating cycle of leadership development that molds the young minds of our future, builds their academic and social skills, and converts them into productive global citizens.” 

Since the inception of Peer Power, the program has seen extremely positive results. Of students who attended tutoring last year, 100 percent passed their algebra Gateway exam, compared to 72 percent school-wide. Of seventh and eighth-graders who were tutored, 100 percent passed the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) test last year, with 51 percent scoring advanced in math. In addition, all of the tutors went on to attend four-year colleges.

East High School Students Participating in the a Peer Power “Math Blitz”
East High School Students Participating in the a Peer Power “Math Blitz”

“These results are possible because students energetically respond to tutors that have faced similar experiences, especially those who came from economically disadvantaged backgrounds,” said Bill Sehnert, director of Peer Power. “Many of our tutors attended the same schools and confronted the same neighborhood challenges as the students they are now mentoring. It’s important for our community’s youth to learn from other people who overcame such obstacles by expounding on their education. It’s extremely effective because it sets a powerful example – if they can do it, so can I.” 

Peer Power was the brain child of successful entrepreneur and dedicated philanthropist, Charles McVean. As an East High School graduate, he 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.

Today, Peer Power is active in several schools throughout Memphis and Mississippi, serving more than 1,000 students every year. The program's progress is consistent across all locations. 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 schools who participate with Peer Power are Blue Mountain High School, Brewster Elementary, East High School, Lester Middle School, Northside High School, Shelby Middle School, Westwood High School and Whitehaven High School.

Yuri Branch, Peer Power Employee, and Charlie Harrell, FCBE Student and Tutor, Leading a Small Focus Group Yuri Branch, Peer Power Employee, and Charlie Harrell, FCBE Student and Tutor, Leading a Small Focus Group

To learn more or become involved with Peer Power, please visit http://www.peerpowerfoundation.org/

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