Chris Winkler played baseball and soccer at Staples High School. After graduating in 2003 he went on to Yale (where he majored in English), and England (where he earned a master’s degree). As soon as he finishes his dissertation, he’ll have a Ph.D. from Temple.
Winkler — who now goes by the first name Yearsley — knows his way around academia. But he hasn’t forgotten his Fairfield County roots.
From growing up here, he realizes the outsize role played by tutoring and college prep services. He also knows that — just a few miles from Westport — there are students who, by the unfortunate luck of where they live, have no access to those advantages.
Even at Bridgeport’s Fairchild Wheeler Magnet Schools, Winkler says, there’s only a once-a-week SAT Club, run by teachers with no special training in test-taking.
Winkler also knows testing. He worked for 8 years with Andover College Prep. A year ago he went out on his own.
Now he’s formed his own company. Meliora — that’s Latin for “ever better” — offers 1-on-1 SAT, ACT and AP tutoring, along with college advising (picking schools, writing essays, etc.). All his tutors are affiliated with Yale.
But here’s the business model twist: For every hour of tutoring or college prep purchased, Winkler’s company will provide an hour to students from Fairchild Wheeler.
He did not choose Fairchild randomly. Westport resident Jay Lipp is principal of one of the 3 smaller schools housed within Fairchild Wheeler. And former Westport superintendent of schools Claire Gold is a longtime consultant for Bridgeport’s education system.
“Growing up here, with all the advantages, it’s hard to even realize the systemic differences between good high school experiences and kids who don’t have the same fortune,” Winkler says.
Other tutoring and college prep companies offer pro bono services to less advantaged students. Winkler says Meliora is different, because its 1-to-1 model — an hour-free-for-every-hour-paid plan — is “fully devoted to this collaborative project.”
Winkler adds, “I’m realistic. I know Westport parents are not paying directly to help Bridgeport kids. But I hope they realize they’re doing some good.”
There’s an enormous gap between schools and services in our affluent suburb, and those less than 10 miles away.
Yearsley Winkler hopes to make the gap smaller, and the effort to bridge it “ever better.”
(Meliora launches in January. For more information, click here.)