When Rich Quadrel retired from his research and development manager position at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in 2015, he thought he’d return to something he really enjoyed years before—teaching.
He and his wife Marilyn started SAGECollege Prep Services four years ago and have been running full steam ahead since.
The husband-and-wife team both hold doctorate degrees and taught previously in their careers.
Rich was once a professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York.
Marilyn is a former instructor at Carnegie Mellon University and a former director of strategic planning at PNNL.
“When we started SAGECollege Prep Services in October of 2015, it was meant to be a part-time thing,” Rich said.
But business has been growing.
SAGECollege Prep focuses on the college-bound high school student. The Quadrels got the idea after reading a newspaper article, which stated that in hard times, affluent families double down on education.
“Given the number of Ph.D.s here in Richland, this seemed like a natural market,” he said.
SAGE offers three types of services:
Rich, along with staff tutor Rob Mauws —a chemical engineer at Washington River Protection Solutions—specialize in math and science. Marilyn’s expertise lies in English, critical reading and writing. The cost is $55 an hour.
They’ll then deliver a list of recommended schools with a detailed description of each school.
The college search service is a flat rate of $250.
Rich finds that the majority of the students they have helped—the number is somewhere between 40 and 50—don’t put a geographic limitation on where to go anymore.
“We’ll ask them questions like, ‘How far away from home they want to be, in a city or not, etc.,” said Rich. “When we bring them the list, there are always one or two schools they never thought about.”
He mentioned one student who wanted to enroll in a pre-med program with aspirations of becoming a doctor.
“She never thought about Ohio State University, but their biomedical sciences program has a direct path into medical school,” he said.
SAGE also will help students with their college applications, developing a plan to assemble transcripts, recommendations and other application materials in a disciplined way. And they’ll help sharpen applicant essays.
Obviously, they don’t write the essays, but the Quadrels can help lead them in the right direction.
With their roots in academia, the Quadrels know what catches college and university counselors’ eyes.
“In college applications, we know the themes in essays counselors are looking for. For instance, how a student overcame adversity,” Rich said. “We know what themes work and what don’t.”
They know what counselors are looking for in a student’s activities—and it doesn’t always mean being in numerous clubs and organizations.
“Counselors want to see commitment from students, extra responsibility, have them show leadership,” he said. “And certain courses are more important than others in high school. Admissions officials—particularly at selective colleges—are especially interested in seeing good grades in (advanced placement) courses.”
This college counseling service costs the same as tutoring—$55 an hour.
The Quadrels often visit different schools whenever they go on vacations.
Their work has been well received. Rich proudly points to the 64 Google reviews: “All 64 of them are five stars.”
Gesa Credit Union also has jumped on board, sponsoring a four-part college preparation seminar series SAGE offers during the fall. It included sessions such as, “Planning ahead for your college career;” “Finding your perfect college;” “Assembling a successful college application;” and “Paying for college.”
“The process has changed,” Rich said. “Families of college-bound students are looking for help to navigate an increasingly complex admissions and financial aid process.”
Rich said the company’s goal is getting the word out to more people about what SAGE can offer.
“When we started this, it was for the children of our research friends out at PNNL,” Rich said.
But then they built a relationship at Hanford High.
“They have four counselors, and they were delighted to put students in touch with us,” he said.
Since then, they reached out to high schools in Richland, Pasco, Kennewick, Walla Walla and College Place.
They’ve used word of mouth, gone to parent-teacher school nights and other high school events.
And as the business is growing—“We’re probably going to have to start looking for another math tutor”—Rich sees the potential to help a larger number of students.
And that’s what it’s all about. It’s why he and Marilyn got into teaching all those years ago.
“I enjoy the personal connection,” Rich said. “There is a special moment when all of a sudden a student sees the light. Where they say, ‘Now I understand!’ I live for that moment.”
And when one of their students gets into the college of their choice. “When they say, ‘I got in!’ I live for that moment too,” he said.
SAGE College Prep Services: sagecps.com; 509-375-5555.
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