A Brookhaven-based national honor society has launched a virtual tutoring platform that aims to broker business for college students during the pandemic and beyond.

The National Society of High School Scholars, operating at 1936 North Druid Hills Road, offers an array of scholarships and programs to “high-achieving” students selected by invitation only. Among the programs, according to NSHSS, is the chance to join “the festivities surrounding the Nobel Prize awards in Stockholm, Sweden,” because a member of Nobel family is a society co-founder. Partner organizations include Brookhaven’s Oglethorpe University. NSHSS charges a one-time fee of $75 for lifetime membership, fully or partly waivable for those who can’t afford it. 

Founded in 2002, NSHSS is incorporated as a for-profit company and describes itself as a “mission-driven, member-based social enterprise.” It has a companion nonprofit foundation that provides scholarships.

Now NSHSS has spawned Knoyo, a platform where college students can hire themselves out as tutors at prices they set, with the company taking a cut. For more about the society, see nshss.org, and for Knoyo, see knoyo.com

We asked James Lewis, co-founder of NSHSS and president of Knoyo, to explain how both work.

James Lewis of Knoyo and the National Society of High School Scholars. (Special)

What is an honor society and what is the National Society of High School Scholars’ unique role in that world?

An honor society is an organization that recognizes students who excel academically or as leaders among their peers. Membership in an honor society is a representation of great achievements and an indicator of future success. Students often belong to more than one honor society.

The National Society of High School Scholars is a distinguished academic honor society, committed to recognizing and serving the highest-achieving student scholars in more than 26,000 high schools across 170 countries. Since our founding in 2002 by James Lewis and Claes Nobel, the senior member of the Nobel Prize family, NSHSS has fostered a diverse and inclusive organization of exceptional young leaders of more than 1.7 million members spanning high school to college to career. Our mission is to honor academic achievement and provide unique resources and scholarships that enrich educational journeys, fuel career interests, and drive community impact. Membership is by invitation only to those students who have achieved at least one of our rigorous academic criteria for membership. NSHSS provides members with a variety of experiences and resources, including scholarship opportunities, leadership and study abroad programs, service activities, partner offers and a lifetime network.

How did NSHSS come to be based in Brookhaven?

NSHSS is proud to have its headquarters located in Brookhaven. Brookhaven is known for its community spirit, commitment to excellence and support of diversity and inclusion. NSHSS shares the same values. 

What does the NSHSS partnership with Oglethorpe University involve?

NSHSS has a longstanding partnership with Oglethorpe University whereby any NSHSS member who attends Oglethorpe receives a $2,000-per-year scholarship. Each year, 40 to 50 entering freshmen have benefitted from this relationship. 

Tell us about Knoyo Tutoring and what need that was created to fill. 

Knoyo is an independent organization that was founded to give students easy access to a pressure-free environment to learn, find community, and raise their GPA. Knoyo tutors are college honor students from universities all across the country — from junior colleges to the Ivy League — to ensure that there’s a perfect tutor for each student. As the first tutoring platform built by students for students, the Knoyo space fosters invaluable connections among students as they build their skills, their networks and their dream futures.

COVID-19 has brought to light numerous challenges in the area of education. With the abrupt switch to online learning last spring and uncertain times regarding how students will learn moving forward, we realize some supplementary study options are necessary. Knoyo was created with these needs specifically in mind. We’re all used to having meals, Ubers and supplies delivered on-demand. Now you can order up the academic help you need and want, exactly when you need it most.

Virtual learning is very popular during the pandemic. Do you think it will continue to be as popular afterward?

We think that some version of virtual learning is here to stay, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Schools, students and families have learned a lot about learning this past year, and part of that has been the benefits of learning and studying on more of a personalized basis. This has helped students maximize their time and seek help for academic support in new ways. Knoyo fits perfectly within that model, offering students personalized support offered on-demand. With virtual learning continuing at some level, it will continue to provide employment for students who need and want to work, on their own schedule.

How does Knoyo make money from the tutoring service platform? And are subsidies available for students who might not be able to afford the fees?

Knoyo allows each tutor to set their own rates, with a minimum of $21.99 for 30-minute sessions and $39.99 for 60-minute sessions. A percentage of the fee is retained by Knoyo.

At this time, we are working with students who are unable to afford sessions on a case-by-case basis with the intent of creating a program in the future for those in need. Knoyo offers affordable tutoring to students, while at the same time providing income opportunities for college students in these uncertain times.

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.