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Connecticut Man Brings 'Buy One, Give One' Model To College Prep

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Courtesy of Yearsley Winkler
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Westport native Yearsley Winkler has started a unique college preparation service: for every hour of paid tutoring, his company will provide an hour of tutoring to a student in need in Bridgeport.

Companies that make everything from shoes to baby food have adopted the “buy one, give one” model. Most notable is TOMS shoes, which gives away one pair of shoes to people in need for each pair it sells. Yearsley Winkler has adopted that model to tutoring. For every hour he tutors a high schooler in suburban Connecticut, he donates an hour of tutoring to the Fairchild Wheeler School in Bridgeport.

WSHU’s All Things Considered Host Bill Buchner recently interviewed Winkler. Below is a transcript of their conversation.

So how did you get the idea to do one-for-one tutoring for the college prep that you do?

Good question, Bill. Like many ideas, I guess you could say it sort of comes upon you all at once. But, on the other hand, I think that there were certain things in my earlier experiences growing up, having grown up in Westport, and having had a lot of opportunities, whether it’s through the resources of the public schools or the teachers that were able to stay late after school helping with homework or any questions that you had or even the sort of test preparation that was available to me and many others from the community. I felt that these were certain opportunities that aren’t extended to certain communities that are really right outside our door. Considering the worsening income inequality and really which translates into an opportunity gap as far as really college preparation services go, why not do something like that for kids who otherwise wouldn’t be able to have these type of services?

As you probably know, Connecticut is in the midst of a big debate right now about the way it funds public education and ways for coming with a fairer way of distributing money. So I guess you could say Connecticut is the perfect place to try out this idea, given the achievement gap between wealthy students and their counterparts in the poorer districts.

Of course, I mean there was an article actually in the New York Times a few months ago that really articulated this quite well. It pointed to two towns actually right outside this studio right here: Fairfield and Bridgeport. And you really couldn’t pick a better example of being so geographically proximate to one another and yet the median incomes disparate and that really does translate, as I said before, to test scores which, like them or not, they are a huge factor in the college admissions process and it’s something that isn’t going away. So I think this is just one small, very modest way of addressing the issue.

Have you noticed any patterns in the study needs of students in more affluent districts compared to the students in less affluent areas?

Not so much, not so much. I’ve been asked, ‘What are the differences between the students?’ and the vast majority of them are equally motivated and equally aware of the opportunity that they’ve been given. And so I would say that with both types of communities, you’re really just trying to make a difference and give both types of students the type of attention that they need in order to give them the best shot to really pursue what they’d like to pursue in the future.

It’s certainly a noble gesture. What’s in it for you doing this?

What’s in it for me? Well, I’d like to say the idea itself is certainly advantageous from a business perspective. And by that, I mean it’s one way to separate yourself from other test prep companies out there. I get that. But on the one hand, it’s certainly not a gimmick. I surely wouldn’t be spending this much time and trying to forge these types of connections and really trying to get the word out as I am right now if I wasn’t fully into it. So I do think the thing that we should emphasize really is that this isn’t a zero sum game and by becoming part of an initiative like this and sort of rethinking what the test prep industry could become and really what its goals are, that sort of thinking and that sort of challenging the status quo is really what I’d like to bring to the floor and what I’d like to contribute.

So do you think this is a movement that you started here? Do you think you will expand your one-to-one tutoring to other cities and states?

Again, I’m fairly modest with what my goals are but I do believe that through conversations that I’ve had, people are interested in the idea of giving back. For now I’d really like to grow this within Fairfield County, and I think that’s more than enough for me in the near future.

Yearsley, thank you for sitting down with us today and telling us about this project. Good luck to you.

Thanks so much, Bill.

Yearsley Winkler’s “one-for-one” college preparation service is Meliora.

Bill began his radio journey on Long Island, followed by stops in Schenectady, Bridgeport, Boston and New York City. He’s glad to be back on the air in Fairfield County, where he has lived with his wife and two sons for more than 20 years.