August 2016 marked the takeoff of the student-run tutoring business, Peer Tutor, founded by senior Zachary Tull and Redwood alumnus Grant Barnes, who earned his GED in 2016. Both students launched Peer Tutor to give students the help they need at an affordable price.
“We are trying to provide access to mentors and high school tutors who have already gone through the process of school and have figured things out a bit. We want them to pass their knowledge on so these younger kids can get the most out of their school experience,” Tull said.
Barnes and Tull experienced trial and error when launching their entrepreneurial careers.
“We had no outside help from teachers, parents or other adults, besides the knowledge that they gave us. We benefitted a lot from mentoring and advising people our parents knew in the workforce, and that was a huge help to us, but we didn’t have someone actually involved in the business,” Tull said.
The success that both Barnes and Tull have achieved with Peer Tutor has help them build a legitimate corporation. Since February of 2017, Peer Tutor has been registered with the state of California and filed with the Secretary of State as a business. Barnes and Tull pay $800 per year to be a part of the system.
When the business first began, Tull developed a process to find the best tutors to provide his clients with.
“I started needing to hire people that I’d never met before, so I had to start talking to teachers actually. They’d give me ideas about what qualities you could identify in a student that would make them a good tutor. I went in to see teachers at lunch, specifically English teachers , because I think they have a really good sense of a student’s character,” Tull said.
Currently, Peer Tutor has twenty tutors, one being senior Clark Chung.
“Peer Tutor isn’t just about participating to make money. Of course that’s the initial goal because everyone needs a few spare dollars to use every now and then, but at least for me, the people skills that I’ve learned by being a peer tutor have actually been more meaningful than the money that I’ve earned from it,” Chung said.
Sophomore Elsa Kemp, a client of Peer Tutor, believes the program has provided her with a unique tutoring experience.
“It’s more personal and your tutor really gets what you go through because they go to Redwood and they’ve been through those classes, so I think that’s the best part about it,” Kemp said.
Beyond the connections that Chung has built with his students, the relationships he’s built, as well as opportunities that he’s been given through the parents of the kids that he assists, have been a great resource.
“One family has become a second family when I’m there, they invite me to dinner and provide me with opportunities for internships,” Chung said.
According to Chung, the tutors sometimes face a challenge when attempting to teach people their own age, which can impede their authority.
“Sometimes the kids begin to see you as a kid. Of course you want to seem approachable as a tutor so they will listen to you, but the delicate balance between making them feel comfortable but also knowing that you’re there to teach and not really there to have fun. Finding that delicate balance is challenging sometimes,” Chung said.
Peer Tutor is off to a great start according to the founders, and Barnes’ and Tull’s vision is ambitious for the future of the business.
“I can see it helping a lot of other communities. That’s the next major challenge, finding ways to expand the model,” Tull said.
Tull will be heading off to college next fall, but he plans to continue the business. He already has a manager who will run the business while he’s gone. Barnes was unavailable for comment, but according to Tull, in the future he plans to focus strictly on Peer Tutor and business in general.
“It should be able to survive in the coming years in Marin, so no one has to worry that it’s going away. But I will be looking for ways to expand it in college and keep it running in the long term,” Tull said.