Frequently Asked Questions

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About the UPchieve Model

Q: How can tutoring and college counseling be accomplished online? +

A: The key to our online tutoring and college counseling services is our web app, which currently includes functionalities such as: 1) a private chat room for each student and volunteer pair, 2) a whiteboard for students and volunteers to collaborate on together, and 3) the ability for students to share files directly with their volunteers. Our team of developers is currently working to expand the functionality of our web app and build our new mobile app. In the future, we hope to add features such as: the ability to collaborate on documents from within the app (for example, personal statements for college applications), voice chat, the ability to easily pull questions from a database of practice questions, and more.

Q: What do you mean by “on-demand”? +

A: On-demand means that a student can request a volunteer at any time (24/7), and if possible, they will be paired with a volunteer within minutes. For example, say student Sally requests help with Algebra at 9pm on Tuesday. Our automated system will immediately search for volunteers who 1) have completed the onboarding process, 2) are certified in Algebra, and 3) selected Tuesdays from 9-10pm as a time that they are typically available to help at. Our system will then text these volunteers to notify them that a student needs help.

While we cannot guarantee that there will always be a volunteer available or that students will be helped within a certain amount of time, our ability to offer "full coverage" will only increase with the number of volunteers using our app. Additionally, in the case that there is no volunteer available, we will also allow students to submit written questions, which will be answered within 24 hours.

Q: Why did you choose this model? +

A: We chose to focus on providing assistance in a free, online and on-demand format because similar services do not currently exist. Our model fills a clear need. Although there are many impactful nonprofits that focus on providing educational and guidance services to disadvantaged students, few provide online services, and none (that we know of) currently come close to achieving what we consider to be “on-demand” services. We believe that on-demand help is extremely valuable to the students who need help the most. (For example, students who work part-time jobs, have to look after their siblings, and/or cannot take advantage of typical free services that are appointment-based or held after school.)

In addition to serving as the optimal model for underserved students, we believe that our online, on-demand format is also the ideal model for volunteers. Volunteering with UPchieve is extremely rewarding and convenient. Our model allows volunteers to help students from the comfort of their own homes (or anywhere else with an Internet connection) and set their own schedule.

Q: Isn’t it going to require a lot of time and energy from volunteers to have services be available “on-demand”? Is your idea sustainable? +

A: Our model is not only sustainable but also easily scalable. Obtaining enough qualified volunteers is easy given the unique flexibility of volunteering online. Additionally, the initial commitment when signing up is low: volunteers are only committing to being notified when a student helps, and they are under no obligation to help each and every time. This means that a volunteer can sign up for Wednesdays 6-10pm, but know that if no students need help, they are free to read a book, do homework, or browse the web. Even if their plans change at the last minute and they are no longer available when a student requests help, they can simply turn down the request and we’ll find another volunteer.

Q: How is on-demand assistance conducive to meaningful learning? Isn’t it just students receiving quick, stock answers? +

A: In order to ensure students receive high-quality assistance, we require all volunteers to pass certification tests in each subject before they are able to tutor it. We also offer review materials and helpful links to practice questions and other resources for each subject. Finally, our app’s whiteboard feature makes it easy for tutors to engage students by asking the student to try solving problems themselves first.

However, we do also acknowledge the crucial distinction between our service and in-person and/or regularly recurring educational services. At this point in time, UPchieve’s service is not designed to be the primary source of assistance for students. We believe UPchieve is most effective when combined with other programs, and that is why we are actively seeking out partnerships with existing nonprofits.

Q: How will you keep students safe and ensure your volunteers are qualified to work with underserved high school students? +

A: UPchieve is committed to ensuring student safety and the quality of our services. One of the ways we do this is by properly vetting all volunteers prior to allowing them to interact with students. During the sign-up process, all volunteers must complete an interview with an UPchieve staff member and provide proof of their identity and educational background. Additionally, volunteers must pass a certification test for each subject that they wish to tutor before they can help a student in that subject.

While in a session with a student, volunteers can only see a student’s first name and the requested help topic. We also use a sophisticated chat filter provided to us for free by Inversoft, which helps prevent the sharing of personally identifiable information and identify chat logs which UPchieve staff members should review. After the session has ended, volunteers and students have no way of contacting each other again.


About the Organization

Q: Where is UPchieve based? +

A: As an Internet-based initiative, our staff members and volunteers live in a variety of locations across the United States. Currently, we have team members in many of the major cities in the U.S., including: New York, Philadelphia, Boston and San Francisco. Our efforts are currently focused on helping students in the NYC Metropolitan area as we believe that these students have a demonstrated need for additional support and many of our team members currently live and work in the city.

Q: Is UPchieve a “nonprofit”? +

A: UPchieve is incorporated as a nonprofit corporation in the state of Delaware as of January 2017, thanks to the assistance of NYLPI's Pro Bono Clearinghouse and two generous law firms. We are also fiscally sponsored by Social Good Fund, a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation (EIN: 46-1323531). Fiscal sponsorship enables our supporters to make tax deductible donations to us through our fiscal sponsor. Our long-term goal is to transition UPchieve into a fully registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in the U.S.

Q: How is UPchieve funded? +

A: Currently, UPchieve is self-funded by the Executive Director. Besides one-off legal costs, the overhead required to run the organization is low. However, we are planning to start fundraising via crowdfunding campaigns and grant applications in order to help us continue expanding our services and hopefully pay a salary to key staff members in the future.

Q: What do you mean when you say you have a “partnership” with Urban Upbound? How will they be helping you during the pilot? +

A: UPchieve’s partnership with Urban Upbound represents an agreement between our two organizations to work together to help disadvantaged students attend college. In particular, Urban Upbound’s College Access Program will be helping us to enroll students in the UPchieve pilot by encouraging the students in their program to use our services. Sample ways Urban Upbound’s College Access Program plans to help us include handing out flyers in their offices and at their SAT workshops, and verbally encouraging students to use our website if they have questions late at night. We are also currently brainstorming additional ways to collaborate during our pilot. (For example, holding “lab hours”, which involves Urban Upbound keeping their office open late several nights a week to let students use their computers in order to easily access our services.)

Q: How did you come up with the idea for UPchieve? +

A: Aly initially came up with the idea to provide free online tutoring as a result of her experiences working as an online tutor for Montgomery County Community College (MCCC). During her four years working as an online tutor for MCCC, Aly witnessed firsthand how helpful it was for students to have access to late-night tutoring services. In June of 2016, upon graduating from Penn and starting work full-time, Aly knew she wanted to continue the volunteer and tutoring work she had actively participated in during college. However, when looking for an organization she could join to accomplish both of these goals, she discovered that there was no existing nonprofit that provided the online, on-demand service she was used to providing to students at MCCC.

In July of 2016, Aly told Katie about her idea to start a volunteer initiative to provide free, online and on-demand tutoring to disadvantaged high school students in the U.S. Katie was immediately excited by this idea to provide extra online support to disadvantaged students. She knew that her experience co-founding and leading another Internet-based, volunteer-run initiative would help Aly advance this concept. Katie also proposed supplementing online tutoring with college-focused mentorship and admissions advice, with the long-term goal of tailoring programs to meet the needs of specific disadvantaged student groups in the U.S. After many hours of research and discussion, Aly and Katie would go on to co-found UPchieve.



How can I help / get involved? +

A: There are several ways you can help us close the achievement gap:

  • Volunteer with us as an Academic Coach or by joining our staff
  • “Like” and follow us on social media to stay up-to-date on our progress
  • Make a tax-deductible donation to help us expand
  • Spread the word about our initiative by inviting your friends to like our Facebook page and sharing our website and social media posts with others