Peer2Peer Tutors CEO Erik Kimel founded his company seven years ago as a senior in high school in Rockville, Md. It is, coincidentally enough, the same school district where Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Susan Marks once served as superintendent. That connection is part of what drew Kimel to Norwalk.
About a year ago, Kimel asked the tutors in the program to build a simple algorithm to profile new areas to which the business could expand. Norwalk came up first on the list.
"We like areas that have lots of kids in public schools and a diverse community," he said.
The Norwalk Children's Foundation will provide $20,000 in funding so Peer2Peer Tutors, a Maryland-based organization, can provide tutoring to about 30 culturally diverse, low-income students at Silvermine and Jefferson Elementary Schools in Norwalk for 2011-12 school year. The Peer2Peer tutors will be students from Brien McMahon High School and Norwalk High School.
Peer2Peer Tutors works by connecting "top high school students with their peers for tutoring," Kimel explained. "We offer them a twice minimum wage opportunity to tutor as much as they want in the subjects that they want. They also select the grade level that they prefer to work with."
Most tutors work two or three hours per week. Peer2Peer has a hiring process that screens applicants through telephone and in-person interviews. Tutors are taught teaching strategies and study techniques. The program also hires master teachers to improve content and management operational mentors who act as liaisons between clients and tutors.
Peer2Peer is now hiring in Norwalk, Kimel said.
"We offer a strictly academic service," he said. "However, it is very much a mentoring type of program."
Kimel added that the partnership with the NCF, which fuels Norwalk's mentoring initiative, will allow the organizations to comprehensively tutor and mentor Norwalk youth.
"They're hiring us to be the academic side of it, so the mentors can actually mentor," Kimel said.
The focus of Peer2Peer's tutoring efforts at Jefferson and Silvermine will be in reading, Kimel said. To evaluate progress, Peer2Peer measures test scores before and after tutoring and also take into account qualitative data, such as student motivation, attitude and preparedness.
"Peer2Peer Tutors really offers an infrastructure that aligns well with our mentorship program, the Norwalk Mentor Program," said Anthony Allison, program officer with the Norwalk Children's Foundation, in a release. "Not only will the program offer academic support, it will also offer social and emotional support for our youth."
"There are multiple levels of benefits to this," Allison said. "We love the idea of these high school students being able to give back, while being offered the opportunity for a job. And, on the same note, these elementary students get to hang out with really cool, motivated and intelligent teenagers. It's a win-win situation."
Peer2Peer Tutors' services will likely expand throughout the southwestern Connecticut area, according to Kimel. In addition to the 30 elementary school students in Norwalk who will receive help this year, the organization's tutoring services will be available to other families privately.
Kimel's concept for the business originated from a desire to help his peers excel in the classroom. After placing a $50 advertisement in his local newspaper, he started the company by tutoring one student -- a sixth-grader in math. He said the only way he could get his student to focus was by promising to shoot baskets with him after the session. He had his friends join in on the tutoring and the business began to grow.
Peer2Peer tutors use a myriad of ways to assist students in grades K through 12, including repetition, flash cards, pneumonic devices, note-taking and the idea of relating a subject to something that interests them so that it is easier to understand and to memorize. The company has a list of family values that it models its tutors and students after: Be passionate; build long-term relationships; pursue growth and learning; embrace youth culture to drive change; do more with less; build a positive team and family spirit; absolute integrity.
For information, contact Erik Kimel at 240-793-9673 or