Gates Foundation Grant to Benefit Indy Startup

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An Indianapolis-based education startup is attracting national attention. Crossroads Education and its Learning Commons model recently landed a $750,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to expand its model to four K-8 schools in underserved areas of the city. The model features student "peer-tutors" who work in a classroom for pay, class credits, or other incentives. 

The company says peer-tutoring provides additional support for teachers and students, and also improves student interpersonal skills and content understanding for both tutors and non-tutors. In an interview on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick, Chief Executive Officer Kevin Berkopes said he believes it is a scalable model.

"The right partners throughout the state we believe this is an Indiana thing," said Berkopes. "We want to scale that nationally and we believe within 10 years from now, people are going to ask or question why students weren't teaching in the school to begin with."

The four schools that will benefit from the grant are located in underserved areas in the city. Berkopes said that was an intentional choice.

"We want to go into the lowest-resource neighborhoods in our city and we want to make sure that everyone knows that despite Indianapolis rising in its national exposure, we still have areas at home that we need to work on. We think driving education is the way to do that. So we're using this grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to invest in some of the lowest-resource schools in our city and the lowest-resource students in our city."

Berkopes adds the model can help with workforce development efforts not only in Indianapolis but throughout the state.

"Workforce development to us is that the soonest you can get a job, the better you're going to be in terms of your capacity to understand what it means to work and develop. So we have as young as third graders in the city right now that are being trained to educate and work with each other as a support network for that great teaching. Now we see everything from third to eighth graders to high school kids to college kids in the city and they're learning what it means to work, develop and collaborate and those are some of the intangibles that make the best workers in our city."

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