Maiya Newsome-Edgerly: Survival of Richmond Public Library SAT Workshop in question

blogimage.jpgFor many years, Angela Cox, a Richmond Youth Council Liaison, has had the opportunity and challenge of coordinating enriching programs for teens in Richmond. For the past seventeen years, one of these programs has been an SAT prep workshop. Though many have come to depend on the program for help in preparing for the biggest test of their high school career, continuous budget shortfalls and issues of affordability threaten the program’s future.

Average SAT Prep courses can run to up $2,400.00 and often don’t appear to be worth the cost. The West Contra Costa Unified School District’s (WCCUSD) SAT prep session, for example, is only for one day, and the students only have the chance to take one practice test. 

In contrast, local workshop at the Richmond Public Library is offered for six weeks and includes two weeks of practice testing for just $40. Plus, the fees students pay for the workshop are transferred into a scholarship for one graduating student who has been accepted to a four-year college or university. The combination of SAT prep and the hope of a college scholarship can be transformative to students’ lives. 

As inspiring as this prospect may be, the program will likely have to close its doors in the coming months.

Cox is constantly challenged by funding efforts. The program’s primary source of funding comes from Friends of the Richmond Public Library organization,but in the last few years funding hasn’t been robust enough to produce adequate SAT programming. The program is currently facing a $1,700 shortage in funding, which may require the program to close shop.

Back in 2007 the City of Richmond engaged in a Community Library Needs Assessment (CLNA) to clarify the current and anticipated library service needs of the city’s residents. More than 125 teens participated in the needs assessment process. Among the top requests from students were high school exit preparation, college workshops, and SAT prep classes. The assessment also conveyed that population of teens around the library site is exceptionally high.

Last year, Richmond resident Elaine Merriweather enrolled her 11th grade son in the SAT workshop. “I wanted my son to receive that extra support. I could’ve done the SAT prep at home, but it’s more beneficial when children learn in a group setting,” said Merriweather. The community, the price, and the location of the course make it a stand-out program in the city.

“Here you have a program that is affordable and is centrally located,” said Cox. “The program is facilitated by a certified SAT instructor. Students also have the opportunity to take the PSAT and SAT manual to refresh their test skills.”

In December 2014, Cox decided to organize a Full Court Press Meeting strategic meeting to help craft a plan to recruit 20 high school students to help save the program. WCCUSD school board member Randall Enos and Elizabeth Chavez of UC Berkeley’s Early Academic Outreach Program (EAOP) are also on board to help the local workshop expand its network and resources.  

In an attempt to help save the program, Cox has also publicized the SAT Workshop on the WCCUSD website and is hoping that this marketing tactic will create more awareness for donations and attract more high school participants. 

But the prospect is looking bleak. Funding is scarce, and the non-profits organizations that had previously contributed to the SAT workshop’s finances are not as capable of offering funds. The workshop’s last hope is to gather commitments from parents, students, and residents. 

If the SAT Workshop isn’t fully funded, then many local high school students won’t have adequate preparation for the SAT or the opportunity to apply for the Richmond Library Annual Scholarship. 

For Richmond residents and students to make immediate impact, they can write letters of support directly to Richmond Public Library. “If residents feel that this is an important service or program, Richmond Public Library leadership won’t know your opinion unless they write letters of support.” said Cox.

While the SAT Workshop is about to close its doors, the Friends of Public Library will still accept donations or sponsorships in the hopes of rehabbing the program. Donations can be mailed to the Richmond Public Library at 325 Civic Center Plaza Richmond, CA 94804. Checks can be made out to “The Friends of Richmond Public Library.” 

For more information about SAT Workshop or donation inquires, please contact Angela Cox at [email protected]  Visit Richmond Public Library Teens Facebook page

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