TeenSHARP summer program prepares at-risk Delaware teens for college
Teen SHARP seeks out talented youth of color and prepares them for - and helps place them - into top universities across the country.
In addition to spending all Saturdays throughout the school year catching them up in areas like reading and math, site manager Gabrielle Thomas has been with a group of students this summer.
In addition to trips to local colleges, they’ve been focusing on SAT prep: reading and math specifically.
“SAT prep is not something that we typically specialize in, but we noticed that a lot of our students still needed help to make sure they were testing at the college-ready level," Thomas said. "So once we made that realization we happened to have two volunteers come out of the woodworks and say they wanted to give back in some way. It just so happened that one was a math major from Cornell and another was a 26-year AP English teacher.”
High school student Jasmine Scott reads August Wilson’s play, Fences, one Saturday morning in early July.
“When we had to read about the N word, I did not like that," Scott said. "The N word? It just aggravates me. I feel like it’s not right for you to call anybody that. Even if it’s an African American telling an African American that. I think it’s very disrespectful.”
Scott says that in addition to the SAT prep, literary analysis and math skills she’s gained through TeenSHARP’s summer program, she’s gotten to see several colleges, too.
“Traveling all to different types of colleges. Like we had that New York trip and we visited Cornell and stuff like that," she said.
Scott and the others are spending every Saturday this summer receiving additional math and writing help.
Thomas has been present during all of the Saturday sessions: learning, laughing and crying alongside the students and helping them through their college applications.
“The reason we’re having them read this play as opposed to SAT prompts is because there’s a lot of opportunity for empathy building in this play," Thomas said. "They get to actually manifest themselves into these different characters and really look at life from a viewpoint they’ve never had before.”
Wilmington couple Atnre Alleyne and Tatiana Poladko Alleyne started dreaming TeenSHARP when they were in graduate school, and mentoring their 6th grade niece.
They decided they wanted to take her on a visit to college campuses, and thought: why not take a whole busload of kids in foster care along with them?
They’ve since been providing programming in New Jersey and Philadelphia to low-income, minority students and in January 2016 expanded programming to Delaware.
TeenSHARP now serves 28 Delaware students from nine different high schools, partnering with Colonial and Brandywine school districts among others.