Belen Student Develops App to Help Students

Teresa Martinez | Director of Communications
What began as an idea to fulfill the community service hours requirement evolved into a newfound passion for technology. Seventh-grader Matias Avino first developed the idea to help students find help with their classes the summer before sixth grade. 

“I came up with the idea of using peer tutoring to pair students who need help with students in the honor society,” said Matias. “The idea is to use your skills to help someone else. I’ve always had an interest in technology so I thought, why not create an app.”

During his sixth grade year, Matias developed the basic outline of the app design called a wireframe. With the design in place, he sought the help of Belen alumnus and current parent Ramon Branger ‘92, who owns a tech firm, to further develop his concept for the YTeach App. 

“We worked on the wireframe with him after reviewing the business plan he created,” said Ramon. “He has a drive that you don't see in most kids his age, while at the same time still keeping a youthful and fun attitude. My first thoughts were how impressed I was that a kid his age had come up with such a solid idea.”

During the course of a year, Matias and Ramon worked closely together to develop the programming and framework for the app. “Ramon is in charge of coding and has taught me a lot,” said Matias.

Matias also had the help, encouragement, and support of his mom, Lourdes Avino. 

“When Matias approached us with YTeach, a million things went through my mind, but I realized that I would be an imposter if I did not encourage him to keep going for it,” said Lourdes.  “We are most proud of Matias for sticking with it. He has participated in almost all meetings with Branger_Briz who helped us develop the concept, meetings with Trueba & Suarez PLLC attorneys who helped with the patent and pitching to other entrepreneurs.  The journey has pushed me out of my comfort zone and helped me learn something completely new and experiencing it together with Matias has only made it that much more special.”

The YTeach app launched at the beginning of his seventh-grade year. “We had some bugs to work out at the beginning but we’ve taken care of all of them,” said Matias. “We currently have over 200 students registered.”

In order to download the YTeach app, you have to be a Belen Jesuit student. Once you’ve downloaded it then the next step is to search the subject or area you need help with and the app will help you find a tutor. Registered tutors are members of the National Junior Honor Society or Honor Society and are approved by their school counselor. Users are able to award “hearts” or likes (similar to Instagram) to tutors so it can be easier to select a tutor who has had more experience. 

“We’ve gotten really good feedback and ratings so far,” said Matias. “I hope more students start using it and we can help more people.”

“A lot has happened since launching 8 months ago,” said Lourdes. “YTeach was selected among hundreds of startups at eMerge Americas, a global tech event in Miami, to not only participate in their Startup Showcase but was also selected as a Top 10 early-stage startup amongst all of them.  Additionally, the app was selected to participate in the Global Startup Grind Conference in Silicon Valley. It was recognized by Startup FIU and took part in its Proof of Concept Studio. YTeach was also selected as a Camelback Ventures semi-finalist in addition to participating in local startup pitches here in Miami.”   

Next up, Matias is hoping to make the YTeach App available at other schools. “Currently the app is only available in the Apple Store but we hope to make it available in the Android Store very soon,” said Matias. “We are in talks with other local schools so in order to launch at other places we need to make sure it’s easy to access.”

It takes a  lot of people to help get an app like this off the ground. In addition to Ramon and Lourdes, Matias has also had the support of his counselor Mrs. Moreno. “I have been really lucky to have so many incredible Belen alumni who have been extremely supportive and even let me shadow them in order to help me learn more,” said Matias. “My dad Javier Aviñó ‘96, Stefano Sanchez ‘20, Tony Jimenez ‘00, Ramon Branger ‘92, Luis Martinez ‘00, Sebastian Duque ‘11, and Roberto Anton ‘12. They have all been mentors to me.”

Down the line, Matias hopes to be an entrepreneur. “When I grow up, I want to work with apps and technology,” said Matias. “ I like inventing and creating websites. I like being challenged. The best advice I can give to students who want to get their idea off the ground is to write a business plan and get your idea on paper.”

“I definitely see the entrepreneurial spirit in him, I see him continuing to develop his skills as a founder,” said Ramon. “The best advice I can share with students like Matias is to just go for it. If you think you have an idea, share it with your parents, mentors or people that you trust. There is nothing worse than keeping it to yourself and then seeing it out in the world.”
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Belen Jesuit Preparatory School was founded in 1854 in Havana, Cuba by Queen Isabel II of Spain.  The task of educating students was assigned to the priests and brothers of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), whose teaching tradition is synonymous with academic excellence and spiritual discipline.  In 1961, the new political regime of Cuba confiscated the School property and expelled the Jesuit faculty.  The School was re-established in Miami the same year, and over the next decade, continued to grow.  Today, Belen Jesuit sits on a 30-acre site in western Dade County, only minutes away from downtown Miami.