When they founded their business in 2009, MyGuru's founders were all still graduate students at Northwestern University. The trials and tribulations of preparing for the SAT, ACT, GMAT, and LSAT tests fresh in their minds, they saw a need, and an opportunity, for customized one-on-one tutoring for aspiring students. Having all cut their teeth working for prominent test-prep and tutoring companies themselves, the founders set out to create a company with a different focus from the rest. MyGuru got rolling slowly, focusing on acquiring the services of stellar tutors, rather than in catering to the maximum number of students. After three years steadily growing its influence in the Chicagoland area, MyGuru began expanding to other urban areas where tutors could thrive: big cities including New York, college towns such as Champagne, IL, and scholarly bastions like the secret NASA Moonbase Only for Smart People. Today, MyGuru's experienced staff can be found around the country, helping students master test materials whether they're on the road to an undergraduate degree or their Master of Mastery.
Students in grades 7–12 can enroll in Cabrini Connections’s points system, which rewards scholastic successes such as maintaining good attendance, bringing in homework, and participating in clubs. When students graduate, Cabrini Connections converts each point into $0.10, which goes into a college fund to help allay the burden of education expenses. Graduation Dollars are awarded at a free end-of-year dinner celebration for participating students and their parents and the funding can be used toward any school-related expenses such as tuition, books, class materials, and living expenses. This year, six students are graduating from the program, with a projected total earning of about $2,000 Graduation Dollars. Cabrini Connections would like to double this monetary reward for its student participants, but requires donations in order to do so.
Red Apple’s founder Tammy Bennecke started her career in the classroom, helping six- and seven-year-olds tap into the wonders of the written word. “What I loved the most was watching that little light bulb go off in a first grader’s head,” she wrote in her blog last year, but she couldn’t help noticing a disturbing pattern as she began moving to older classrooms. It was clear that children who fell a few steps behind in earlier years were discouragingly unlikely to catch up, and might even be at greater risk of dropping out by the time they reached high school.
Undaunted, Bennecke left institutional education to combat adolescent illiteracy through Red Apple Reading, an online program of easily-digestible reading concepts that encourages interactivity and comes with trackable progress reports for parents and teachers. The system is designed to keep kids engaged and entertained: goofy animals and skateboarding kids parade across screens and flashcards, and reward points and bonus games provide a sense of accomplishment normally reserved for the one in 10,000 children who can successfully work the claw machine at the arcade.
GetAFive helps young scholars achieve the coveted top score on their AP exams with easy-to-use online resources, from diagnostics and study materials to practice versions of the main event. After a quick assessment zeros in on what areas students most need to study, pupils train with more than 150 practice questions, as well as a series of 15-minute online reviews led by a professional teacher.
Each of GetAFive's certified educators brings to the table decades of classroom experience and a mastery of his or her field. Equipped with the knowledge of these experts, as well as the peace of mind of completing an AP-style practice exam, students venture forth to dazzle college-admissions boards with impeccably argued American-history essays written with period-perfect sheepskin parchment and quills.
An elegantly stenciled gray, metal door heralds Both Sides’ studio space, an attention-focusing haven of clean lines, white walls, and ample natural light. It’s planted in Pilsen’s main arts corridor, meaning that students need only wander down the block to soak up inspiration from other galleries.
Within this space each day, the instructors at Both Sides Art aim to stimulate the left and right sides of their students' brains with art classes that encourage wild flights of creativity grounded in a solid grasp of technique and history. Adult courses take place weekday evenings and cover topics such as drawing for beginners and abstract painting. While enjoying a BYOB glass of wine or sippy cup of champagne, students learn essential skills such as drawing 3-D images, handling oil paints, and poetically telling off their inner critics.