Xavier Suarez, 17, plans to study engineering after he graduates from Marble Hill High School for International Studies — that is, if he passes his SATs.
A pilot class at Lehman College may soon help him achieve his goal. Suarez is part of a class of 25 Bronx high school students who joined the SAT Preparatory Academy, a new initiative designed by Lehman College’s College Now program, which aims to help them increase their SAT scores to qualify for admission in college.
The College Now program traditionally offers college preparatory and college credit courses for free to high school students. Program coordinators created the new SAT Prep Academy because many students from the Bronx are denied admission to CUNY colleges due to their low scores on the exam.
“We strongly believe these students are good candidates for a CUNY senior college and are only being held back by a standardized exam that they have never prepared for,” explains College Now Coordinator David Gantz. “Our preliminary results have been excellent and I am hoping that the actual scores will validate all the hard work of everyone.”
This semester, the new pilot class took a 10-week SAT prep course with a Princeton Review instructor and a college credit English course on literary genres, taught by English Professor Terrence Cheng.
“Professor Cheng teaches us close reading, where we learn how to analyze so much of the little parts in literature,” said Suarez. “It’s by far the greatest class.”
The students were selected from among 35 applicants from several Bronx high schools. Applicants had to meet Lehman’s GPA, PSAT, and Regents exams requirements, as well as be able to handle both the SAT Prep class on Saturday mornings and the college-level English course two afternoons a week.
“They work hard and are focused on improving, but this group may have even more focus and more pressure because they have not even applied to college yet, and they are already doing college-level work, while preparing for the SAT,” explained Professor Cheng. “I was thrilled to work with College Now on this program because we saw the need and shared the desire to assist Bronx high school students in this specific area.”
Richard Adjei took his SAT test last week and scored 1,920—a perfect score is 2,400. He said he’s satisfied with his score but plans to retake the test after the summer to score around 2000. The average increase in reading and math for the whole class was 115 points.
“We probably learn a lot of things we would have never learned in school,” said Adjei, 17, a junior at the Bronx Academy of Health Careers. “It helped me in a lot of ways. I now write research papers more effortlessly.”
College Now is hoping to expand its SAT Prep Academy next year to 50 high school students.
“I want to do good in order to determine what college to go to,” said Nenekade Bah, 18, a junior at Bronx Latin High School. She scored an “A” on all of her essays in the program’s literary genres class and is now considering journalism as her future major.
“At first my SAT score was not that good. When I began I was told that I wouldn’t be eligible for a four-year college. Now I am,” she said. “This class boosted my grads. They taught us techniques to do better on tests and how to approach math problems. “
Bah hopes to take classes with College Now on campus in the summer and join either the Summer Multimedia Arts Academy or the Summer Science Academy. These two programs offer high school students the opportunity to take different courses in arts, humanities or sciences and receive college credit.
“I am thrilled by the prospect that we will have changed the game for many of these students by helping them to become eligible for a four-year college,” says Professor Cheng. “I have seen them grow and improve and mature through this semester. I am confident that the strong improvement demonstrated in their diagnostic exams will carry through in the real SAT.”