When Erik Kimel launched Peer2Peer Tutors, at the age of 16, his idea was simple: students can help other students succeed academically.
"We have a huge achievement gap in this country," Kimel said. "If you're born into a certain zip code, no matter how bad you mess up, you can go to college, because you've got money."
Kimel runs what he calls a for-profit business with a social mission. Peer2Peer hires high school tutors from local communities to teach students within the same community. Often, the two students go to the same school.
Recently, Peer2Peer helped secure $20,000 in funding to tutor 30 low-income, culturally diverse students at a Norwalk, Conn. school.
"It works because the content is fresh," Kimel said. "The environment is the same. The tutor may have even had that same teacher. It's firsthand, and you're able to use those 'I know what it's like to be in your shoes' type of statements.'"
Kimel said his business has a track record of success. Last school year, his tutors taught students at a Silver Spring, Maryland elementary school. After three academic quarters, Kimel said, 60 percent of the students tutored by Peer2Peer saw their grades improve by at least one letter grade.
"We make students feel comfortable," Kimel said. "Then they start to feel confident and then they start to improve."
Peer2Peer also offers a sorely needed employment opportunity for young people, in an economic climate that has been especially tough on teens and college students. The tutoring company is poised to create 500 youth jobs, according to a Peer2Peer press release.
Tutors make at least double the minimum wage in their community and can make as much as $18 an hour. Kimel said that tutors "always" list the experience on their college applications. He added that tutors in low-income areas are especially excited to work for Peer2Peer.
"They are thrilled to be able to make at least double the minimum wage," Kimel said.
When asked if he felt his mission to employ young people was especially critical, given the stagnant economy, Kimel responded, "Yeah, but we were doing it before it was cool."
Kimel also wants to shift the dominant narrative that America's students are underachieving and being outperformed by youth in other countries, like China.
"Instead of getting so hung up on the countries abroad, we've got some pretty smart kids in our country," Kimel said. "We need to recruit them to help students who are in need."
To learn more about Peer2Peer, visit the company's website and watch the video below: