Talent Search Programs Increase Student Diversity: This Year, 39 Program Students Accepted

Andover administrators and third-party talent search programs have been making a concerted effort in the past few decades to make sure Andover lives up to its mantra of “youth from every quarter.” Among the 451 students who received letters of acceptance to Phillips Academy, 39 were selected as “program students.” Since 1964, Phillips Academy has worked with third-party talent search programs geared towards helping students of limited financial means or of underrepresented ethnic backgrounds gain admission to elite prep schools. Dean of Admissions Jane Fried said, “Andover has long and distinguished relationships with student talent search programs. Andover was a founding member of many of these organizations and thus has worked with some of these programs for approximately 30 years.” The non-profit organization A Better Chance, co-founded by Phillips Academy through the efforts of Headmaster John Kemper in 1964 during the Civil Rights Movement era, is one such program. The organization’s goal, according to its mission statement, is “to substantially increase the number of well-educated minority youth capable of assuming positions of responsibility and leadership in American society.” According to A Better Chance (ABC)’s Director of College Preparatory Schools Program Chantal Stevens, the organization accepts applications from talented minority students with limited resources. ABC then acts as a liaison between the prep school admissions offices and the students. It is then up to the admissions officers to decide if the applicants are a good match for their schools. “We extend the reach of admissions officers,” stated Ms. Stevens. “We get to places the staff can’t get to on their own to find students who could benefit greatly from an opportunity to attend a school such as Andover.” Sadiqa Farrow ’09, a participant in A Better Chance, said, “[The program] gave me the exposure I needed to get into the schools I got into… if it hadn’t have been for ABC, I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to even go visit a boarding school or anything of that nature.” Another similar program is Wight Foundation’s STEP, a rigorous program which heavily emphasizes the value of work ethic. Two of its scholars, Teddy Louis ’09 and Lou Tejada ’08, are currently enrolled at Andover. Once participants fulfill program requirements such as maintaining A’s and B’s throughout their seventh and eighth grade years and attending weekly Saturday morning classes, the Wight Foundation will work closely with them through the high school and college admissions processes. Wight Foundation Executive Director Rhonda Auguste said, “We are a resource for our scholars.” She explained that organization members remain involved with their scholars throughout college and even after college, aiding them in the search for summer programs, university scholarships, and internships. Most students are positive about their transition from such a program to Andover. Teddy Louis said, “I guess I did feel a little different because I knew for a fact that I had worked hard to get here…so I was ready to take full advantage of what was here at Andover.” Lou Tejada said, “It definitely lessened the shock of the academic workload.” While preparing students for Andover’s rigorous academic environment, these programs also give their scholars incentive to stay out of trouble. Another program is the New York-based non-profit organization Prep for Prep. Its high school preparatory program, Prep 9, provides seventh and eighth grade students with the tools necessary to perform well in high school. Like ABC, Prep 9 aids its participants in putting together a high school application. Jonathan “Figgy” Figueroa ’06, a participant in the Prep 9 program, said, “Before, my friends would ask me, ‘Why would you study?’ They… couldn’t grasp the concept of grabbing a book and studying. They were absorbed by the whole distraction of living in the ghetto. [Prep 9] was hard, but it was the first time I had ever been in a group of individuals who were as motivated as I was.” Other programs include TEAK Scholars (NYC), The Wadleigh Scholars Program (NYC), The Rocky Mountain Talent Search (CO), Center for Talent Development (IL), Duke Talent Identification Program (NC), Center for Talented Youth (MD), The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation (national), Caroline D. Bradley (national), Queen City Foundation (OH), SEEDS (NJ), and the NYC Boys’ Club. The majority of the programs are privately run and funded, or are officially not-for-profit organizations. Figgy, who grew up in Spanish Harlem, said, “These programs, which are extremely important to individuals who live in neighborhoods similar to mine, as well as the many individuals who are a part of the Andover community…are essential [to] current efforts being made to reach out to extremely talented, less fortunate individuals.”