Hello! My name is Spiffy, I’m an Interplanetary Journalist. I’ve been speaking with innovators from around the world who are working on education. Students have the ability to make a big splash on education. One of those people is Michael Wang, CEO of PeerSquared and student at ASU!
SPIFFY: Hi Michael. What challenge is PeerSquared addressing?
Michael: Our mission at PeerSquared is to provide K-12 students with accessible supplementary resources by helping schools and communities build peer tutoring programs where students can connect with trained local high schooler tutors for free 1-on-1 academic support. Whether it's growing a high school's peer tutoring club or starting a new one for a local non-profit, we help them design the most effective program to address the academic needs within their school or neighborhood.
SPIFFY: What motivated you to do this?
Michael: Not long ago I was a high school student facing many frustrating evenings struggling with homework with little to no support. When my friends and I started a peer tutoring club to help others in the same boat, many counselors borrowed our tutors to help the most at-risk students. When I finally got my hands on some great resources in college, I knew I had to make peer tutoring even better – starting with my own high school and that peer tutoring club my friends and I built!
SPIFFY: And how does peer tutoring help make the world a more equitable place?
Michael: Many schools in Arizona are poorly funded and lacking accessible & affordable academic support for students. Our peer tutoring program models aim to establish tutoring programs to provide not only free academic support but also help students build life-long character skills. Just with our first pilot this summer, 86% of students said they looked forward to more tutoring and our tutors earned 600+ volunteer hours helping their community virtually!
Image courtesy of PeerSquared.
SPIFFY: Young people can provide such innovative ways to overcome challenges. What’s a milestone you’ve reached with PeerSquared?
Michael: We recently finalized partnerships with two Arizona schools plus an NGO. We are excited to begin integrating our program into our community, especially right now when students are looking for supplementary support during online learning. I know that schools and teachers are very busy trying to make online learning work. I’m so thrilled just thinking about the hundreds of students we can potentially impact this year through 1-on-1 peer tutoring and how that would lighten the load on teachers.
SPIFFY: It’s a lonely time. I see how 1-on-1 tutoring would be life-changing now. Tell me about a time you faced failure. What did you learn from it?
Michael: When my first cofounder quit and left the startup a year ago, it really felt like a failure on my part. Even though I just won a large grant, perhaps it did nothing to vouch for my ability as a leader. But after many internal dialogs and calls with mentors, I learned that, sometimes, things really are not as complicated as we think they are inside our heads. Always have good communication and transparency and others to reciprocate your authenticity. Things can be talked out as long as you have respect.
SPIFFY: Communication is a valuable lesson for everyone. Not just entrepreneurs. How have you learned from the people around you? Anything unexpected?
Michael: I’m honestly always unexpectedly learning from people! And sometimes, you can even learn unexpected things from people you’ve known for a while. As I try to run a startup, I do a lot of brainstorming with my team. But I’ve always been hesitant about doing large group brainstorming thinking we would end up with more silence than talking. However, some people’s superpowers shine brighter in a larger group. The conversation just flowed naturally! I’ll be doing that more often with my team for sure!
Michael Wang is the co-founder & CEO of PeerSquared, something he started as only a sophomore at Arizona State. Now, a finance and CIS senior, he's won $20K in entrepreneurship grants and continues to scale his team and the potentials of peer tutoring in his local community and beyond. (Michael was nominated by SEED SPOT)