Touring in five groups of five students, a cohort of PREP 9 students visited Andover for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic. The students toured the campus, met with admissions officers for dinner, attended classes and an All-School Meeting, and ended the day with their application interview.
PREP 9, a program conducted by the non-profit organization Prep for Prep, works with African American and Latine seventh graders from public and charter schools in New York City. The program helps those with demonstrated academic achievement and financial need to apply to boarding schools across New England. Since 1986, PREP 9 has partnered with Andover, one of the seven founding schools in the PREP 9 Consortium. According to Akintoye Moses, the director of PREP 9, the program is currently working with the 36th cohort of students to apply to Andover.
Moses said the goal of the founding schools and Prep for Prep in creating PREP 9 was to provide lower-income students of color with the resources necessary to enter and take advantage of the opportunities available at independent boarding schools.
“PREP 9 exists [for] students of color from New York City who have done everything right and who truly have everything—the intelligence, the determination—[but] might not have the financial resources. PREP 9 exists because there’s this group of students who have earned their spot, and who are earning these spots in spaces that weren’t originally created for them,” said Moses.
PREP 9 student Victory Ugbah shared positive feelings about her visit to Andover. Ugbah said she was grateful for the opportunity to experience the school in-person, rather than over Zoom, as she was able to garner a better sense of the community.
“During my time on campus, we visited classes including history and math. We also did a tour around Andover… I think that seeing the community was easier and better to understand when you visited Andover in-person…. [Andover] felt like a family, it felt like the people there understood each other, and they could relate with each other more,” said Ugbah.
PREP 9 student Mercy Okoronkwo also noted that seeing Andover in-person left a distinct impression on her. She even felt that it changed her initial impression of the school.
“I enjoyed seeing how beautiful Andover’s campus was. I wish to see it again. It’s one of my favorite visits yet. I feel lucky because if I did not see it in-person, I would be confused on what to pick for my application, and on what to think about each boarding school… We did an overview on Andover before we came. Compared to what I heard about it, experiencing [Andover] and seeing it in-person is, ‘Wow. This is Andover?’ I couldn’t believe it,” said Okoronkwo.
Josh Espinoza ’25, a PREP 9 alum, was one of the Andover students who hosted PREP 9 students this past week. As Espinoza was not able to visit campus due to Covid-19 restrictions when applying to Andover, he commented that having the opportunity to visit is one that is special and beneficial.
“I’m very grateful that PREP 9 got to visit us last week. It was a very fun and engaging experience for me and for the other visitors and I think that it’s important that students from low-income communities get the opportunity [to visit]. And also, regarding my Freshman year, I’m envious that I didn’t get the same opportunity because now these students have some sort of idea of what they’re getting into, and I think that is a good experience,” said Espinoza.
Moses said the best part of the trip was getting to see the reactions of PREP 9 students as the bus arrived on campus. For many students, she believes that visiting schools like Andover inspires them to work harder because they realize that what they are working towards is tangible.
Moses said, “You see big eyes, you see the kids pointing out huge buildings and you walk off the bus. For me, it’s awesome seeing our kids imagining their future selves as students on these campuses. When our kids can see themselves in spaces that weren’t originally created for them, however they know how hard they have been working to get to one of these spots––one of these schools––it’s powerful to experience that.”