USC students help local high school juniors with SAT

Many USC students have started to mentor high school students through the upcoming nonprofit program, CollegeSpring. A 5-year-old nonprofit designed to offer free SAT prep and college counseling to underserved high school juniors, CollegeSpring was created in order to combat low graduation rates and help students from low-income areas go to college.

On average, students who go through the CollegeSpring program for SAT preparation, usually as part of their school curriculum, increased their test scores by 188 points, which is on par with for-profit test prep companies such as Kaplan and Princeton Review.

CollegeSpring works with various high schools in the greater Los Angeles area, as well as the San Francisco Bay Area, to help students realize their full potential by working with them to boost their SAT scores and to understand the college admission process. Students enrolled in the program attend a general SAT class about three times a week. In addition to classes, students also meet with college-aged mentors in small groups once a week for about an hour to practice for the test.

Having recently secured a partnership with Teach for America, CollegeSpring hopes to expand both organizations and become more well-known throughout the community, especially among USC undergraduates.

“A lot of people who did CollegeSpring and mentored as undergrads were interested in Teach for America because they are really similar,” Melina Charis, a senior majoring in creative writing and a current mentor for CollegeSpring, said. “It seemed like a kind of natural step for CollegeSpring.”

Though they each do different things, CollegeSpring and Teach for America are similar in that they are both interested in helping students from low-income communities do better in school in an attempt to raise their scores so that they will be able to have the opportunity to go to college.  Many of CollegeSpring’s mentors also plan on working for Teach for America after graduating from college.

“Right now, we’re trying to meet with the Teach for America recruiter to do joint information sessions to get people who are interested in Teach for America interested in CollegeSpring or vice versa,” Charis said.

CollegeSpring hopes that by working with Teach for America, they will be able to get the word out about CollegeSpring.

“Teach for America is really good at recruiting and because of that, they are able to be a lot more selective,” Charis said.

CollegeSpring has worked with approximately 5,000 students and aims to work with many more in the future.

“CollegeSpring is growing really, really fast, and it has a lot of similarities to [Teach for America],” Charis said. “The goal with the partnership is just to expand both organizations.”

Nancy Aguilar, a high school senior from Animo Inglewood Charter High School, found the program to be important to her development as a prospective college student.

“What helped me was that the people who were in my group were struggling with the same things I did,” Aguilar said. “It made it much easier for me to take advantage of [CollegeSpring].”

USC students found the program to be rewarding as well.

“USC does a lot of things within the community to help kids from local schools,” said Kiersten Stanley, a sophomore majoring in writing for screen and television. “I thought that CollegeSpring was another good way to help kids that are not necessarily affiliated with USC but is still promoting the same message of educating our community.”

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