The idea for UPchieve was based on my own personal experience as a low-income student. I was raised by a single mom who was an immigrant to the US and often couldn’t help me with schoolwork and applying to college. So I went to a community college, and from there it took me 6 years to transfer to and graduate from a 4-year university.
College is not the only way for a low-income student to achieve upward mobility, but research shows it’s one of the most reliable. That was the story for me, too. Transferring to Penn helped me get a job on the trading floor at J.P. Morgan, where I immediately made 3x as much as my mom straight out of college.
I soon began looking for ways to give back and help other students like me get to college. Volunteering as a math tutor seemed like a great choice because I had tutored my way through HS and college and knew a lot about it, but I couldn’t find any existing volunteer opportunities that fit with my work schedule.
That’s when I first came up with the idea for UPchieve: an open source platform that could meet the needs of both younger-student-me (who needed help with schoolwork and college apps, often late at night in my home) and older-volunteer-me (who needed a flexible and convenient way to give back). Students can use UPchieve 24/7 to request and get paired with a live tutor in 5 mins, and volunteers select their availability and then wait for a text notifying them that a student needs their help. You can see a demo of both the student and volunteer side of the platform here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SufRUje0XiM
Over the next two years, I realized that many other people cared about what I was doing and wanted to volunteer to help build the platform and tutor students. I also learned more about the state of education in the US and discovered that the gap in college completion rates between low- and high-income students hadn’t changed at all in 10+ years! This led me to grow more and more passionate about both the need for and potential of a platform like UPchieve. In 2018, I finally quit my job at J.P. Morgan to work on UPchieve full-time, with the new goal of scaling free tutoring to all low-income HS students across the US.
UPchieve is completely free for eligible students, and it only costs us $10 to give one student an entire year of unlimited academic support. For reference: online tutoring companies charge students $35 per hour on average. Other existing nonprofit tutoring models are prohibitively expensive and difficult to scale, due to factors like 1) cost of paid tutors, 2) in-person delivery, and 3) long-term commitments required of students and tutors.
We’re also working to become 100% self-sustaining (i.e., not dependent on donations). Companies like Verizon and Goldman Sachs pay us to provide virtual volunteer opportunities to their employees. Many big companies have budgets set aside specifically for volunteer opportunities because studies have found that employees who volunteer are more likely to stay at the company.
So far, we’ve helped more than 7,000 students and matched more than 30K on-demand requests for tutoring. My favorite part of my job has been reading the hundreds of comments we get from students each month, telling us how we’re helping them kick ass in their classes and that they can’t imagine life without us. It’s literally the best feeling ever. You can see some of my favorite student feedback here: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1w3nqHSNiP-2270_Qxjvy...
If you like what we’re doing and want to help, please consider signing up to volunteer—we especially need more statistics, calculus, and physics tutors! Use this link to sign up and you’ll bypass our waitlist: https://app.upchieve.org/sign-up. Alternatively, you can also support our work by donating at https://secure.givelively.org/donate/upchieve. We’re currently covering 35% of our budget with revenue, but we still need additional funding to reach sustainability. We’d be so grateful for your support!
Finally, we’d love to hear your thoughts on what we’re doing! Please leave a comment with your feedback, ideas, and even criticisms—we can’t fix it if we don’t know about it. :) Thank you!