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8 Ways to Get a College Degree

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If you look at college graduation rates through the lens of race, it doesn’t look good for black students.

Last month, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center released data that gave me pause. As reported in Inside Higher Ed, the center evaluated data from students who had entered college in the fall of 2010. The data represents students attending full-time or part-time, at four-year and two-year schools.

Although, as a whole, more students graduated with a degree or credential within six years—54.8%—than did not, teasing apart the races tells a less optimistic story.

  • Of all racial groups, Asian students are most likely to complete a course of study and earn a degree, at a rate of 63.2%.
  • White students are a close second, finishing at a rate of 62%.
  • Hispanic students are a distant third at 45.8%.
  • Black students are last, finishing at a rate of 38%.

 

Going Further Into the Data

 

Even success after transferring from a community college is colored by race. The report shows that, again, more Asian students (25%) will go on to complete their degrees, whereas only one in 12 black students will do so.

I wish I could say that black students who attend historically black colleges graduate at higher rates, but they do not. Spelman, which is all female, has the highest graduation rate at 67%, according to U.S. News & World Report; but Bethune-Cookman, which was included in a list of HBCUs with the highest graduation rates, has a rate of 27.5%.

I wondered about disaggregating the data further; what about black students who participate in programs like Oliver Scholars, A Better Chance, or the Meyerhoff Scholars? Are black immigrants more likely to graduate than black Americans or vice versa? Among black students, do graduation rates improve as income rises?

 

8 Ways to Succeed

 

What is it that makes some students persist while others fall by the wayside? The Hechinger Report recently spoke with experts in this area, including Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Here are their eight tips to help black and Latino college students stay the course:

 

  1. Find a group of students to study with to master the material—or form your own.
  2. If you get the opportunity, sign up to be a tutor.
  3. Don’t be too disturbed by those who are surprised by your academic success.
  4. Pursuing a STEM degree? Don’t skip the introductory science courses—no matter how well you did in your high school AP classes.
  5. Go to your professors’ office hours regularly—before you need help.
  6. Get to class before the professor, sit in the front row with other students in your study group, and ask plenty of questions.
  7. Seek out opportunities to work in the classroom as a teaching assistant.
  8. Didn’t get an A? Don’t think that all is lost.

 

To read more, go to the Hechinger Report.

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Looking for a Summer Internship? Use This Resource and Get Hired Now

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public relations tips (Image: Thinkstock)

 

In March, I wrote a post that said, “March is the month when employers post the most ads for internships, therefore March is the best month to look for internships.”

Yes, that’s true, but even at this late date, you may still be able to snag a summer internship. And if you’re an employer—even for a small business—you still may still have the chance to hire an intern to get you through the season.

I recently spoke with Danielle Gruppo, founder and CEO of InternAlliance, an online platform that directly matches students with employers. It’s free for students and reasonably priced for small businesses, too.

 

Small Business Recruiting

 

In fact Gruppo, a small business owner herself, made sure her platform was accessible to small employers.

“They can sign up on a month-to-month basis,” she says. “They have unlimited job postings and unlimited student matchings.” Employers, large or small, can sign up on the site, or contact her directly.

“Small employers may not have the human resources team of large employers, but they have much to teach a student—how to maneuver through a small business; how to become an entrepreneur; how to do the books, or set up social media sites.”

“Small business owners, should be sure to have guidelines ready for students they hire, but InternAlliance handles the recruiting,” Gruppo says.

 

Recruiting Asset

 

Through a proprietary matching algorithm, businesses of varying sizes are matched only with qualified students.

“Employers can ask for a third-year accounting student. They can put in basic requirements and preferred requirements. Students will show up as a match who meet their criteria 100%—or more than 100% if they also meet the preferred criteria.”

Gruppo says her platform takes the ambiguity out of the internship search. Students see immediately if they qualify. It’s then up to the employer to move forward to see if the student is a good culture fit.

Gruppo says employers are paying an average of $18 an hour; STEM majors earn more, liberal arts majors a little less. But, not all internships are paid.

“Some are for course credit, and some pay a stipend,” Gruppo says. Students can examine employer profiles to see what they’re getting into before they commit.

 

Internship Success

 

If you’ve already landed an internship, but are  now wondering what you can do to want to be sure you succeed, here are five tips from Gruppo:

  1. Understand the job description—what’s expected of you, what you expect to learn, and what you want to learn.
  2. A structured internship that includes reach projects or group projects with other interns as well as day-to-day duties works best.
  3. Take advantage of any educational sessions—formal and informal networking, Chamber of Commerce meetings, and seminars.
  4. Find a commonality with every person you meet. Maybe you both like dogs. Do it by listening or simply asking, “What do you like to do?” Then build on that relationship.
  5. Make networking connections, and look for access to senior leadership.

 

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Black Pittsburgh Steeler Is Now a Neurosurgeon at Harvard

(Image: Instagram/ myronlrolle)

 

I know it’s almost sacrilegious to say this, but I don’t like American football—which, for some, is a religion. It’s a brutal game; the only one that, since 1995, has killed a middle school or high school student every year.

I don’t know about you, but dying or sustaining a serious, life-altering injury to play a game just doesn’t seem like fun to me. And—call me a spoilsport—but neither does ending one’s career with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.  Add to that the sport’s culture of misogyny, violence, and flagrant waste in a world of extreme poverty—not to mention the poverty just in Dallas. How can anyone justify the building of a $70 million football stadium? And that’s not in reference to the stadium where the Cowboys practice for the NFL—that’s for a high school. After taking all this into consideration, I have to conclude that the game just isn’t for me.

Although I may not be a football fan, after reading about Myron Rolle, I’m now hopeful that someone, who has excelled at the sport and clearly loves it, can also help to make the game safer. At the least Rolle has football cred, so any warnings he would sound-off on would command respect.

 

From the NFL to Harvard Medical School

 

Next month, Rolle, a 6′ 2″ former safety with the Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers will start the next phase of his career—by beginning his residency in neurosurgery at Harvard Medical School.

 

(Screenshot from video by CNN.com)

 

Rolle already has a master’s degree in medical anthropology, which he earned from Oxford University in England as a Rhodes Scholar. He is also probably the only man in the world that is a Rhodes Scholar, medical student, and former NFL athlete.

According to CNN, the future surgeon says he’s glad he’s been able to walk into his purpose.“I’m glad that I walked into something that was a smooth transition from football,” he said to CNN reporters.

 

It’s Brain Surgery

 

You know the cliché people use when they’re describing something that isn’t very difficult? “It’s not brain surgery,” some say. Well, this is—or will be—literally the case for Rolle. The former football athlete will be putting on scrubs and operating on people’s brains. Though already a medical doctor, Rolle’s love of football and concern about its safety has seemingly had an influence on his choice area of study.

“The fundamentals [of the sport] have to be emphasized—tackling the correct way. Having the right equipment. Making sure that you don’t have very violent practices or contact practices,” Rolle told CNN reporters.

The news outlet also claims that Rolle’s areas of interest include brain injuries in sports and pediatrics. “I will tell you in person, ‘Yes, play, but be careful, be safe, and understand some of these things that need to go into it for you to enjoy it,’” he said.

Whether football can be played safely at all is unlikely, but Rolle is the man uniquely equipped to find out the answers.

Check out the below video, in which Rolle discusses his experiences as a medical student:

 

(Source: YouTube, User: NOVA’s Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers)

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Disastrous Trump Budget Could Deter Future Violas

 

(Image: ViolaDavis.net)

 

The Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis grew up in abject poverty, but thanks to federal programs like Upward Bound, which prepares underserved students for post-secondary success, Davis went to Rhode Island College on a full scholarship, People magazine reports. She earned a B.A. in theater, and the rest, as they say, is history.

But the era of that kind of future-shaping federal support may be nearing its end.

First Budget

 

The Trump administration’s first budget deprioritizes investments in public health, the environment, and safety, and torpedoes education programs that support our nation’s most vulnerable children.

A CNBC senior columnist writes that the budget simply reflects the truth, and that “reforming and essentially cutting” Social Security, Medicare, and Defense will solve our fiscal problems.

Perhaps student loans and similar programs aren’t sustainable—but somehow we always come up with money to fight wars. That money needs to be invested instead in our people—in our environment, in education, and in health.

Responses to the Budget

 

John B. King Jr., president and CEO of the Education Trust, released a statement on the budget describing it as a “shortsighted and cruel proposal” that assaults the American Dream. “Instead of investing in the future, the proposal underfunds or eliminates many vital supports that give people the opportunities and tools to better their lives,” King says.

The Union of Concerned Scientists also released a statement, calling the budget “deeply unjust” and one that would “disproportionately harm poor and working class Americans.”

Ken Kimmell, president of UCS and a former Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner, says the proposed budget lobs a “wrecking ball at agencies that protect our health, safety, and environment,” and takes “our environmental cops off the beat….”

But The Institute for College Access & Success detailed most specifically how devastating Trump’s budget would be to low- and middle-income college students. Lauren Asher, president of TICAS, characterizes the budget as a “recipe for higher student debt, greater inequality, and a weaker economy,” as a result of its call for nearly “$150 billion in cuts to grant aid, work study, and student loans.”

Asher calls on Congress “to reject this reckless budget,” which, she says, “undermines Pell Grants” and “increases the cost of borrowing for millions of students,” along with eliminating subsidized student loans.

According to a statement from New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa and State Education Commissioner Maryellen Elia, the administration’s budget would cut $433,473,204 out of the state’s budget, “eviscerating after-school programs, community learning centers, teacher preparation, work study, adult education, and cultural programs.” This is the impact on just one state.

Viola Davis’s hard, hungry childhood has a spectacularly happy ending, thanks in part to programs made possible by federal support. Let’s hope that we’ll be able to hear stories like hers in the future.

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Disastrous Trump Budget Could Deter Future Violas

Viola_Davis_sml-667e5acf272957288021eb1d3c8b91f15c1e31de

 

(Image: ViolaDavis.net)

 

The Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis grew up in abject poverty, but thanks to federal programs like Upward Bound, which prepares underserved students for post-secondary success, Davis went to Rhode Island College on a full scholarship, People magazine reports. She earned a B.A. in theater, and the rest, as they say, is history.

But the era of that kind of future-shaping federal support may be nearing its end.

First Budget

 

The Trump administration’s first budget deprioritizes investments in public health, the environment, and safety, and torpedoes education programs that support our nation’s most vulnerable children.

A CNBC senior columnist writes that the budget simply reflects the truth, and that “reforming and essentially cutting” Social Security, Medicare, and Defense will solve our fiscal problems.

Perhaps student loans and similar programs aren’t sustainable—but somehow we always come up with money to fight wars. That money needs to be invested instead in our people—in our environment, in education, and in health.

Responses to the Budget

 

John B. King Jr., president and CEO of the Education Trust, released a statement on the budget describing it as a “shortsighted and cruel proposal” that assaults the American Dream. “Instead of investing in the future, the proposal underfunds or eliminates many vital supports that give people the opportunities and tools to better their lives,” King says.

The Union of Concerned Scientists also released a statement, calling the budget “deeply unjust” and one that would “disproportionately harm poor and working class Americans.”

Ken Kimmell, president of UCS and a former Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner, says the proposed budget lobs a “wrecking ball at agencies that protect our health, safety, and environment,” and takes “our environmental cops off the beat….”

But The Institute for College Access & Success detailed most specifically how devastating Trump’s budget would be to low- and middle-income college students. Lauren Asher, president of TICAS, characterizes the budget as a “recipe for higher student debt, greater inequality, and a weaker economy,” as a result of its call for nearly “$150 billion in cuts to grant aid, work study, and student loans.”

Asher calls on Congress “to reject this reckless budget,” which, she says, “undermines Pell Grants” and “increases the cost of borrowing for millions of students,” along with eliminating subsidized student loans.

According to a statement from New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa and State Education Commissioner Maryellen Elia, the administration’s budget would cut $433,473,204 out of the state’s budget, “eviscerating after-school programs, community learning centers, teacher preparation, work study, adult education, and cultural programs.” This is the impact on just one state.

Viola Davis’s hard, hungry childhood has a spectacularly happy ending, thanks in part to programs made possible by federal support. Let’s hope that we’ll be able to hear stories like hers in the future.

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3 Facts I Learned About Harvard’s Black Graduation Ceremony

When I first heard about the black graduation ceremony at Harvard, I was opposed to the idea. Why are the students segregating themselves? Why can’t they join the rest of the students in the regular graduation?

But I thought I would check with my cousin Barry, who graduated from Harvard many years ago. To my surprise, he was all for it.

“If it is in addition to the traditional graduation ceremony, in the way that each house has an additional ceremony, I think it would be fine,” he told me in an e-mail.

I was glad I had checked with him, because that was the first thing I learned:

  • The black Harvard graduates aren’t segregating themselves any more than any house that holds a separate ceremony is.

Through Barry’s daughter, Adrienne, I met another Harvard alum, Kristen Jones Miller, over e-mail, who shared her thoughts. (Jones Miller owns the business Mented with another Harvard alum, Amanda Johnson.)

Black Enterprise: Are you for or against the all-black Harvard graduation ceremony, and why?

Kristen Jones Miller: I love the idea of an all-black graduation ceremony. I graduated from Harvard College in 2008, and the “Black Grad” ceremony was actually a staple in the undergrad community—in fact, I was the black grad speaker. I love the [current] effort to make it school-wide because I remember feeling that this ceremony gave me, my family, and friends an even more intimate and community-based setting to celebrate this huge achievement.

That was the second point I learned:

  • Such black graduation ceremonies have been part of the graduation experience for many years at Harvard. What’s different this year is the attempt to make it school-wide.

BE: What did participating in the black graduation ceremony mean to you?

KJ: If there had been a cross-school black graduation I would have happily participated in that as well. Ultimately these events aren’t about excluding anyone—they’re about taking another moment to celebrate an amazing accomplishment with a community of people you’ve grown close to.

BE: Should these students have attended an all-black college if they wanted an all-black graduation ceremony?

KJ: No, I think this sentiment is somewhat silly. The black grad ceremony doesn’t replace the university-wide ceremony—it’s a bonus, akin to the house-specific ceremonies that are done at the undergraduate level.

Which brings us to the third fact I learned:

  • The black graduation at Harvard does not replace the university-wide ceremony, as I had erroneously thought.

What do you think? And, have your opinions changed now that you know the facts?

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Figure Skating in Harlem Focuses on Education and Gets Results

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Figure Skating in Harlem is in its 20th year of teaching girls from age 6 to 18 not just about figure skating but also the power of education, as well as confidence and leadership.

“The educational component is just as important as the skating and performance side,” Founder Sharon Cohen told me recently. A former figure skater herself, Cohen started FSH “accidentally,” in response to a community’s request.

(Image: Figure Skating in Harlem)

 

After about five years of teaching girls on the side how to figure skate, Cohen officially started Figure Skating in Harlem. The nonprofit has evolved into an international award-winning organization recognized by the United States Olympic Committee, Beyond Sport, CNN Heroes, and others.

I Can Excel

 

Through its ICE: I Can Excel After School Program and its Summer Dreams camp—which includes indoor ice skating—Figure Skating in Harlem provides a lot—on a sliding scale—to low-income, primarily African American and Hispanic girls.

“We provide performance opportunities, career exploration, college prep, cultural trips, and a rigorous educational component,” Cohen says.

Girls must maintain a B average to be in good standing in the program; about 27% are straight-A students. Those who need help get it.

(Image: Figure Skating in Harlem)

 

The organization offers small-group tutoring and individual learning plans, educational finance classes developed by Black Enterprise’s own former Finance Editor Stacey Tisdale, STEM classes, which use skating as a means to talk about science, and communications classes that focus on writing and public speaking.

(Image: Judy Schiller)

 

There’s even a dedicated person on staff who helps high school seniors navigate the college process.

The Proof Is in the Pudding

 

“Our mission is to serve girls in communities that ordinarily wouldn’t have this opportunity,” Cohen told me. “We want to help girls grow in confidence, leadership, and academic achievement, as well as physical health and fitness.”

(Image: Darial Sneed)

 

The organization must be doing something right. At its recent gala, Figure Skating in Harlem raised nearly $1 million!

It boasts a 100% high school graduation rate, and all seniors go on to four-years colleges such as Brown, Howard, Barnard, and others.

Some of its alums are doing impressive work: One is a financial director at Goldman Sachs; another, a former engineering major who is now overseeing the construction of a $20 million building; still another works at an education nonprofit.

Intrigued? For more information and to support its work, visit the Figure Skating in Harlem website.

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Harvard Student Submits Rap Album as Senior Thesis, Earns Honors

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Harvard (Image: Twitter)

 

Rather than writing a traditional thesis paper, 20-year-old Obasi Shaw became the first student at Harvard University to submit a rap album as a senior thesis in the English Department. As a result, his creativity and lyricism earned him an A-minus and ensured that he will graduate from the Ivy League school with honors next week.

Shaw took more than a year to write and record the 10-track album, titled “Liminal Minds,” which explores the themes of racism and identity. He said the idea to submit it as a senior thesis was initially suggested by his mother, who was aware that her son had performed his original rhymes at showcases on campus. Although Harvard undergraduates are not mandated to submit a senior thesis, it is required in many departments to graduate with honors. Shaw’s album was awarded summa cum laude minus, the second highest grade in the department.

‘‘I never thought it would be accepted by Harvard,’’ said Shaw, a native of Stone Mountain, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta, to The Associated Press. ‘‘I didn’t think they would respect rap as an art form enough for me to do it.’’

On the album, Shaw embodies a different character on each track as he raps about a range of topics including police brutality, the Black Lives Matter movement, and slavery.

“Black people in America are kind of caught between freedom and slavery,” Shaw told the Harvard Gazette. “Each song is an exploration of black liminality, that state between slavery and freedom.”

Shaw said he found inspiration from old English literature and the literary work of James Baldwin. His thesis adviser, Harvard English lecturer Josh Bell, praised the album for its academic and artistic quality.

“Obasi’s album is very interesting because it uses Geoffrey Chaucer’s ‘Canterbury Tales’ as an intellectual overlay,” said Bell to the Harvard Gazette. He “is telling stories in each song from different points of view, and it’s critical of American society and racial politics. But above all that, it’s a fun and interesting album,” added Bell.

Although Shaw may have dreams and the potential to pursue a career in music, he plans to begin working as a software engineer at Google this summer.

Take a listen to “Liminal Minds” below.

 

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Research Says After-School Programs Foster Interest in STEM

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bookl club

After-school programs can help students develop an interest in science, technology, engineering, or math.

If children haven’t developed an interest in those fields by the time they leave middle school, then it’s unlikely to happen. After-school programs can help expose students to more than they see in the regular school day, providing an opportunity for them to develop these interests.

“Part of that is giving kids a safe space where they can try an experiment,” without the pressures of school, said Ron Ottinger, director of STEM Next at the University of San Diego.

STEM Next is one of more than 20 private and corporate foundations that created the STEM Funders Network, in 2012. The initiative seeks to use its collective power to increase awareness of how to get more students involved in science, technology, engineering, and math. A STEM Learning Ecosystems Initiative includes 37 communities across the United States that are dedicated to supporting research-based efforts to spread STEM lessons to children—inside and outside of the classroom.

In a national survey last year, more than 78% of children said they’d had a positive experience with the STEM subject areas because of an after-school program, according to new research from the PEAR Institute at Harvard University, McLean Hospital, and IMMAP: Institute for Measurement, Methodology, Analysis and Policy at Texas Tech University. The survey included 1,600 children and after-school program leaders in 11 states.

And there’s some proof that after-school programs are effective as well. Research from Robert Tai, an associate professor in the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia, provides evidence that students who spend time on STEM subjects outside the classroom are more likely to pursue careers in these fields. The study was published in 2011 in the International Journal of Science Education.

In rural areas, where it can be logistically and financially difficult to do after-school programs, the internet has created ways that allow technology to fill the gap. One example: After-school programs can dial in to link with NASA online.

President Trump’s administration has declared an interest in encouraging more women to pursue STEM careers. After-school programs could serve as an effective way to help achieve that goal. But after-school initiatives have been slated for cuts under the Trump administration’s proposed budget.

“It’s puzzling that on the one hand the new administration says it’s important to get women and young girls launched in STEM, and yet you see the NASA education program [and others] on the chopping block,” Ottinger said.


This article was produced by the Hechinger Report and is republished here with permission.

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Silicon Valley Nonprofit Founder Tells How Tutoring Is the Path to Opportunity

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Chris Norwood (Image: Courtesy of Chris Norwood)

 

Chris Norwood’s Bay Area Tutoring Association was recently named the Silicon Valley Nonprofit of the Year by the Silicon Valley Organization.

This isn’t the first time that Norwood headed up an educational services business that became highly recognized and revered. Norwood, who SVO calls a “social change agent, born entrepreneur, and a leader in creating greater educational equality,” also led Xcel Educational Services to win the award for Best Tutoring Company in Milpitas, California, four years in a row (2008–2012). He’s also the founder of CodeWritingKids.com and serves as Milpitas Unified School District Board Trustee Vice President.

I met Norwood last year when he was a member of the judging panel for the second annual Black Enterprise BE Smart Hackathon. Impressed when I met him in Silicon Valley, I was eager to hear about his most recent award, and find out what his company has been doing to promote education equity.

 

Tutoring as a Bridge to Opportunity

 

Our country—especially the black community—is experiencing an education crisis. Sadly, that isn’t new news, but Norwood says solutions emerge when stakeholders collaborate.

“The award is an acknowledgment that there is a relationship between community-based organizations, for-profit organizations, city government, and our school districts, when it comes to education,” Norwood says. “Those willing to collaborate—not only in the short-term, but also the longer-term—that’s where great conversation happens and change occurs.”

 

Code Writing for Kids

 

Norwood describes how his team developed Codewritingkids.com, a local initiative, as an example of such collaboration.

“This computer science initiative developed out of our observation that academic ability could be accelerated by improving digital literacy skills and introducing kids to computer technology. Mark Zuckerberg is right—computer science has the ability to transform how students learn math, English, and the traditional sciences through the use of machine technology.”

However, Norwood says we can’t wait until our young people are in college.

“We’ve got to plant the seeds early and provide positive experiences. Computer science, computer technology, computer programming—these things should be options on the table [as] areas of interest for our young people, or else it won’t be part of their decision-making process.”

 

Inequitable Education

 

Norwood has also exposed kids from Oakland and Compton to VR—otherwise known as virtual reality—and caused at least one student to change her major to computer science. This is not insignificant.

“We’ve been involved in a few hackathons. The numbers for African American computer science majors are dismal. There’s no existing pipeline of these students for companies to hire, but through hackathons and other community events, corporate sponsors and corporate volunteers see that there’s all this raw talent for them to invest in and cultivate.”

Yet Norwood has no illusions about equity in education.“Some people think that education is a civil right; others believe it’s a privilege,” he says. “If you look at how some school systems or some communities are designed, it becomes apparent that the opportunity is not equitably distributed, and it’s not currently designed to be equitably distributed.”

Norwood calls tutoring a bridge to opportunity, claiming, “Everybody needs tutoring. It helps students to answer the questions, ‘Do I really want to be successful? Am I willing to do whatever it takes to get there?’”

For more information about the Bay Area Tutoring Association, visit its website.

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