Tutoring is big business. Westport youngsters from kindergarten on spend untold hours honing their reading, writing, math, science, singing and sports skills. They — okay, their parents — pay big bucks for the opportunity.
Of course, not everyone can afford a tutor — not even in a group setting.
Meliora Education is doing something to help. The Westport-based college prep company, provides SAT, ACT and academic tutoring with a twist. Every hour purchased buys an hour for Bridgeport-area juniors and seniors.
Meliora offers the service through Fairchild Wheeler. The magnet school on the Bridgeport-Trumbull line is actually 3 high schools: aero/hydrospace engineering, biotech/zoology and information technology. There are 500 students in each.
Tuck Northrop teaches literature at the engineering school. A Westport native who left investment banking for a more fulfilling career in education, he loves both his job and his school.
“The kids here are really smart,” he says proudly. “And you can’t learn aircraft design and naval architecture at other schools.
Fairchild Wheeler has been recognized as a Magnet School of Excellence. Graduates go on to Ivy League and other top schools.
But getting ahead is a constant struggle. The gap between the haves (like Staples) and the have-nots (like Bridgeport schools) is enormous. That’s where Meliora rides to the rescue.
Founder Yearsley Winkler — a baseball and soccer star at Staples, who after graduation in 2003 earned degrees from Yale and in England — hired Northrop as Fairchild Wheeler’s first after-school SAT tutor.
Northrop recruited others. They now teach 2 sessions each afternoon. Students attend two per week.
It’s tough. But, Northrop says, “it gives students a chance they otherwise would never have.”
The classes are free. Students do pay $20 for an SAT prep book (a $24 value). If they do not miss a class, they get their money back.
Meliora’s buy one/give one model does not cover all the costs. A recent $25,000 grant from the Daphne Seybolt Culpeper Memorial Foundation funds the rest.
Results are very encouraging. Northrop worked with one class that scored very low on the first diagnostic test, and one that scored high. Both improved dramatically during the program.
Meloria will run the course again next year. And in the fall — thanks to the Culpepper grant — they’ll help the soon-to-be-seniors with their college essays and applications.