Thursday, November 5, 2009

Sleeping on the street for free tutoring

Julius Bishop grew up in a low-income family and understands how education can open a world of possibility.

That is why on Saturday, he is setting up a tent at the outdoor atrium at uptown's EpiCentre, where he will sleep at least through November to raise money for free tutoring for all Charlotte-Mecklenburg students.

Bishop works for TADA (Talents Are Discovered Awareness), an initiative of a 7-year-old registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit called JETTI (Jobs Exposure Talent and Training Institute) created to help students tap into natural talents and find solutions to problems in education . TADA will work with children K-12 by pairing them with "talent discovery coaches" to unlock their undiscovered potential.

While Bishop is living on the street, he and JETTI's founder, Christopher Harper, will call on companies and businesses to commit money to the tutoring effort. Their goal is to get 3,000 companies, churches, civic clubs or teams to sponsor 10 to 15 children a year for a tutoring program.

The tutoring's free, but the tutors are paid. Many will be current and former teachers; all have to be trained on techniques of unlocking talents and certified by TADA. Harper wants to raise at least $3 million to make TADA self-sustainable.

Sound a touch bold in this recession?

Not to Bishop and Harper.

"I am trying to bring people together to support free tutoring," Bishop said. "A lot of kids can't afford the $35 an hour for a tutor. This would get them the help they need. I am sleeping on the streets now, so none of them have to sleep on the streets in the future."

Harper, a Charlotte native and long-time corporate trainer, said CMS estimates there are between 15,000 and 30,000 students who need tutoring to succeed in school.

"We believe that every child wants to win in school and we work from there," he said. "If that premise is true, then the only thing holding them back from winning is finding their hidden talents.

"On their own, they don't know how."

Bishop's sleeping arrangements are designed to bring awareness to TADA, as well as the need for tutoring. During the day, Bishop will pass out flowers and ask for donations for TADA. He and Harper will call on companies.

"We want to be a sustainable program," Harper said. "We're not just going to be a sound bite."

If you want more information, or if you'd like to donate to the free tutoring project, go look up Bishop at the EpiCentre atrium, or call Harper at JETTI 704-540-3029. You can donate and find more information at