Local entrepreneur gives advice to motivate students

Thursday, March 12, 2015

By Erica Setnick

Andrew Rufo, who grew up in Radnor, Pa., is the current CEO and Founder of EVLiO, a full service web-designing site, and the proud owner of more than 200 domains online, including DudesNews. com and PhillyHats.com.

“A lot of what it takes is vision and the entrepreneurial spirit, which can’t really be taught,” Rufo, 25, says. “Thinking of all these different website names is a long process.”

He explains that the first step is sitting down and thinking of what people will pay for. He then thinks of different names of websites and sees if they’re already taken. When they’re available, he buys them and starts selling his products.

Rufo admits that he was not very engaged during school. “When I was 8, I was the kid secretly charging other kids video games on floppy disks, not really paying attention to what was being taught,” Rufo says. “When I was 11, I started wearing six jerseys to school and renting them out to my friends to wear.”

Even today, Rufo says he avoids school.

“I can’t blame it on anything else but the fact that I’d rather be doing anything else but sitting in a classroom,” he says. According to Rufo, teachers these days need to realize that students aren’t engaged in everything they teach.

Rufo isn’t alone. According to an analysis by the National Research Counsel, motivation often declines as students movefrom elementary school through high school.

Upwards of 40 percent of students –high school through college– are disengaged from learning.

According to the Center on Education Policy, if students aren’t motivated, it is difficult to improve their academic achievement, no matter how good the teacher, curriculum, or school is.

Experts believe there are some ways to motivate students, starting with the teachers. Ronald Girmus, Ph.D. of New Mexico State University at Carlsbad reports, “An unmotivated teacher can undermine an entire classroom.”

According to the CEP, some schools have considered rewarding their students with money or other prizes to motivate their students. Students can receive pizza coupons or free movie tickets when they demonstrate things like good behavior, good attendance, attaining a passing score, or getting a higher score on an important exam.

But the CEP reveals that studies of reward programs have shown mixed results. A study by Harvard economist Ronald Fryer concluded that paying students to increase their test scores produced no improvements in test scores or grades, because students had little knowledge of how to control their test scores.

But Fryer’s findings also revealed that paying students for reading books and taking a corresponding quiz produced

the best results – a dramatic rise in standardized test scores which continued to grow about a year after the program ended. Megan Trexler, a DCCC English professor, says she found it shocking that her college students were unmotivated in the classroom.

“When I first started teaching, I was surprised that students lacked motivation because I wrongly assumed that my students would be like I was when I was a student,” Trexler says. “I was always very motivated, so I expected the same mentality from them. I also figured that it was college, so students understood that, to an extent, it was their choice to be there [unlike high school]. Now that I’ve been teaching for eight years, their lack of motivation doesn’t shock me at all.”

Trexler explains how she engages her students the best way she can.

“I try relating to them as much as I can,” she says. “I also try to design assignments and include topics that interest them and influence their lives. Other ways that I engage them include asking thought- provoking questions and establishing a discussion-based class where students are encouraged to get to know each other, work together, and become comfortable in the classroom environment.”

Today, Rufo says he wished that teachers offered more “pick your own topic” projects. “What I liked most about school was when teachers gave you freedom to pick your own topic to write about and let you choose the way you wish to present it,” he explains.

Rufo adds that he owes his success in web design to “getting the right opportunities and taking advantage of them right away.”

He also says he’s a big believer in karma: “If you pay it forward to someone, it’ll come back to you one way or another.”

“Finding what you love always helps with starting a business,” Rufo adds. “In order to find what [niche], you have to find what interests you, and that might not always be stuff you learn in textbooks.”

Rufo wants to convey that hard work and dedication really have an effect on how your life plays out. “Don’t be [discouraged] on whether you should follow the money or follow your dreams,” he advises.

Rufo gives a example of why young people should follow their dreams rather than the money.

“Let’s say you’re a stockbroker and you’re making a lot of money in one day,” Rufo explains. “The next morning, there’s an announcement on the news that says stockbroking has been named illegal and they force you to go home, then what do you live for, right? That’s your job they just took away from you. Now if you followed your passion and created something you love from scratch, no one has power over you. No one can tell you tomorrow that your dream is invalid.”

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