URI senior helps students clear hurdles, Get Ready!

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KINGSTON, R.I. – Aug. 19, 2010 – As a member of the University of Rhode Island’s women’s track and field team, Lara-Jane Que spends a lot of her time clearing hurdles.

This summer, she spent her time helping low-income high school students clear hurdles that may have otherwise prevented them from attending college.

Que (’11) – a psychology and studio art major from Ridgewood, N.J. – worked as the co-director of the White Plains, N.Y. branch of Let’s Get Ready!, an organization that brings in college students to serve as coaches for high school students. The program provides SAT preparation and college application guidance for the high schoolers.

Que and Jacqwel Brown, who graduated from Syracuse University in the spring, oversaw the White Plains branch of the program, coordinating a team of 18 coaches – 10 for math and 8 for verbal – who worked with 51 high school students. Once chosen as the co-directors of the White Plains site, Que and Brown did all of the hiring of the coaches.

“Let’s Get Ready! is not your normal SAT prep program,” Que said. “Because of the smaller age gap, the college students can really relate with the high school kids. It makes the younger students more comfortable asking questions and soak in what they are learning.”

In the classroom, students learned about different aspects of the college application process, such as writing college essays and understanding the difference between early action and early decision. Que and Brown also coordinated field trips for the students, such as trips to New York City to meet with young professionals in different fields or visits to local college campuses so the students can get a better sense of the college setting.

“At the start of the program, some of the kids don’t know what a grade-point average was,” Que said. “But you see every week how much they are learning. By the end of the summer, they have a strong idea of what type of school they want to apply to and what type of academic program they want to pursue.”

Students in the program took a pre-SAT test early in the summer. Based on how they scored, they were broken up into small groups with a 5-to-1 coach—to-student ratio.

“The beauty of program is that we put the groups together according to the score ranges on the pre-SAT,” Que said. “There is no more than a 50-point range of scores in each class, so the kids are learning at the same pace as peers with similar scores.”

The classes meet two nights a week, with one night dedicated to math and the other for verbal instruction. Que and Brown arrive an hour before each class to meet with students and answer any questions that come up. Before the program ended, all the students were registered to take the SAT in the fall, and the coaches helped each student compile a list of colleges with high acceptance rates and strong financial aid packages.

“On the weekends, I call my students to check in and see how the process is going for them,” said Que, who credited URI academic advisor Michael Scott with helping her with the application process for Let’s Get Ready!. “This is much more than a summer program. You build such an attachment with these students, and you see the potential they have. We know every student by name and where go to high school.”

While the summer is winding down, Que has worked to make sure the students in Let’s Get Ready! have a support system in place. The program has partnered with an adult mentoring program in Westchester County and Greenwich, Conn. to pair each high school senior with an adult who has had a child go through the college application process.

“White Plains is a huge town, and it’s common to see a ratio of 470 students to one guidance counselor,” said Que, who hopes to be a part of Teach for America, which is a partner program for Let’s Get Ready!. “It’s hard for these students to get time with a guidance counselor. With the volunteer adults who have gone through the process, we can provide a support system. When they are back in school in September, these students will have mentors to help them with writing essays and applying for scholarships.”

Though she’ll be back at URI when the summer ends, Que knows the experience has had an impact on her life.

“Participating in Let’s Get Ready! was such a growing experience,” Que said. “I got experience in the professional world, whether it was having meetings in the corporate world or making presentations to get donations for the program. There was also the personal experience with the mentors and students in the program. It was the best of both worlds.”

Pictured above

University of Rhode Island senior Lara-Jane Que spent her summer as the co-director of the White Plains, N.Y. branch of Let’s Get Ready! Que and Syracuse University graduate Jacqwel Brown helped prepare 51 high school students to take the SAT and to apply to colleges and universities. Photos courtesy of Lara-Jane Que