|SLU biology and philosophy major, Michael Ford (A&S '13), helps high school senior, Lamont Slaughter, prepare for the ACT in April.
ST. LOUIS - Saint Louis University pre-med students head to Vashon and Roosevelt High high schools on Wednesday mornings, bearing candy. The treats are a yummy reminder for the high schoolers that ACT tutoring is being offered after school at SLU, and is just a taste of what lies ahead.
The Collegiate Honors Preparatory Program (CHPP), a program created and staffed by undergraduates in SLU's Alpha Epsilon Delta, the honor society for pre-med students, builds upon the sweetness of success.
CHPP got its start last spring when pre-med students at SLU approached Philip Alderson, M.D., vice president for health sciences, about making a positive change in the community. He challenged them to reach out to students in the local public schools to help improve their standardized test scores.
Standardized tests present one of the biggest challenges for students, creating roadblocks in the college application process.
"As an individual who came from a public city school, I understand some of the obstacles these students face," said Michael Railey, M.D., associate dean of multicultural affairs for the School of Medicine and CHPP faculty mentor.
"We're having difficulty keeping students from disadvantaged environments interested in science. It's my personal goal that by getting these students qualified for college, some of them will go on to pursue careers in medicine or the sciences."
In the pilot year, CHPP focused solely on the reading comprehension section of the ACT. After only 10 weeks, the average reading section test score improved by nine points.
Now in its second year, CHPP has expanded to prepare students for all four sections of the ACT. Though, most students won't take the ACT until April 9, the diagnostic practice tests have found significant improvements in the students' comprehensive scores.
"I love that we're students helping students," said Jessica Modock (A&S '11), one of the founding members of CHPP. "We're not too far removed from the high school experience, which I think really makes a difference."
In most cases, students who regularly attend CHPP sessions have had a three to four point increase in their comprehensive scores. The largest jump was from a student who went from a seven to a 14.
For many, the difference determines whether or not they go to college. Since the program's inception, nine seniors who were tutored through CHPP have been accepted into college.
Because of its success, the program is growing. Last year, between six and 12 high school students attended the one-on-one tutoring sessions. Now, between 20 and 25 regularly come for ACT prep.
"I need a lot of ACT prep to get into the colleges I want," said Lamont Slaughter, a senior at Roosevelt High School who regularly attends the CHPP sessions. "I like that the tutoring is one-on-one instead of a whole class. If I have a question, they can answer it right away."
Beyond the Classroom
Though their service isn't directly related to medicine, CHPP volunteers learn the art of teaching, a skill they will use throughout their lives. For many of the tutors, it's been an experience that has changed their college experience.
"I'm a pre-med biology major, but I've learned that I really love teaching," said CHPP executive board member Sarah Bieser (A&S '11). "These students are motivated and want to succeed. Our program simply provides them with additional resources and encouragement to excel. Seeing the excitement on students' faces when they've made progress is what keeps me coming back."
SLU's commitment to providing students with transformative learning experiences like CHPP is a reflection of the University's mission to educate the whole person.
"Great physicians shouldn't just be intelligent technicians. They should be humanistic," Railey said. "Giving students the opportunity to serve now sends them on their way towards a purpose-driven life."