“I’ve seen the impact that tutoring programs can have on a student’s success – especially struggling students.” – Chris Hopkins, USA
Chris Hopkins may be a program manager intern at Microsoft, working with engineers and organizing development projects, but education is his passion. Fortunately, the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Through his internship, Hopkins is gaining the valuable skills he’ll need to make Boost Tutors, an organization he founded, a success.
What inspired Hopkins to focus his efforts on education? His time working at King’s Academy in Jordan (during his gap year between high school and college) played a big role.
“I didn’t teach, but I did things that made teaching possible,” Hopkins tells us. “I was a live-in dorm advisor for a bunch of freshman guys, helped coach the varsity soccer team, helped run community service programs and also ran the tutoring program. I worked with some students who were struggling in a normal classroom setting, and was pretty blown-away by how fast they got up-to-speed if you actually took the time to work with them one-on-one.”
Through this experience, and time spent volunteering in a public school classroom (while tutoring on the side), Hopkins had a life-changing realization.
“When I showed up to offer help, the students had to come prepared and be more engaged. In a classroom setting…you don’t necessarily have to be engaged all the time,” says Hopkins. “If you’re working one-on-one with somebody, it’s harder to hide, so that forces a deeper level of engagement automatically.”
Armed with this insight, Hopkins and a group of fellow Dartmouth College students came together to provide virtual tutoring over the Internet. Their focus is mostly rural schools – those that don’t have the population density from which to draw volunteer tutors.
“I’ve seen the impact that tutoring programs can have on a student’s success – especially struggling students,” Hopkins says. “And in the right school systems, you can find students who are just as motivated to take advantage of whatever opportunity you give them.”
Therein lies the idea for Boost Tutors. Hopkins and his teammates said, “Let’s figure out how we can meet that demand by creating a platform to mobilize more people, and make it easier for them to get involved in tutoring.”
Early pilots of the program have shown promise, with many of the participating students achieving notable gains in the classroom. But more important than test scores, according to Hopkins, is the difference it’s making in the lives of both students and tutors.
He notes: “Kids really liked it. Tutors really liked it. Teachers noticed that the kids were more energetic in class, more enthusiastic about learning math and more confident in asking questions.”
In the future, Hopkins and team hope the program can go global, perhaps using Skype Translator to reach students in remote, non-English-speaking districts. For now, though, they believe that programs like Boost Tutors can help inspire people to get involved in education, whether as full-time teachers or part-time tutors.
As for advice to others contemplating starting their own business ventures, Hopkins says, “Go do it! Know that it will be harder than you expect, but know that it will make it all the more satisfying as you make progress. We at Boost are a long way from figuring it out, but even working with the idea as a prototype has been really rewarding and I’ve learned so many things you just can’t learn any other way.”
We’re proud to have interns like Chris Hopkins on the Microsoft team, and even more excited to see where he (and Boost Tutors) will go next!
Microsoft Program Manager Intern and Founder, Boost Tutors