The Prep for Prep organization works to develop leadership skills and educational opportunities for students of color in New York City. It was started in 1978 by South Bronx teacher Gary Simons and has grown since then to support 225 students a year. Fifth, sixth, and seventh graders who scored in the top ten percent on the state English Language Arts tests are nominated to join the program, a 14-month preparation for independent school enrollment.
Prep for Prep goes beyond just academics, though; it also trains participants to be leaders by using an individualized approach and supporting students through the whole process. Students in the program don’t just get placed in high-powered schools; they are supported all along the way.
Prep for Prep charges no tuition for its services—thanks to generous individual supporters like hedge fund guru Dan Loeb, the non-profit has the resources to offer their services without having to charge the low-income students who are benefitting from them.
The Prep Community includes more than 4,500 members, according to the website. These members are “rapidly assuming leadership positions in a wide variety of endeavors” and are “living proof that the potential for academic and professional success exists in all ethnic groups and socioeconomic classes.”
Though Prep for Prep is only able to serve about 0.1% of the students who are eligible to apply, those who complete the program definitely see results, ending up in top tier independent schools (Trinity, Collegiate, Brearley), boarding schools (Exeter, Choate, Phillips Academy) and, eventually, top notch universities (Harvard, Yale, Stanford).
A heartfelt editorial in The Huffington Post points out the importance of programs like Prep for Prep:
“Our public school system has the resources–human and financial, teacher and student– to harness more from gifted, driven youths. We need our schools to be able to say truthfully to students: “If you are willing to work your heart out and make education your priority, you will be richly rewarded with opportunities.” That’s the best of the American dream. Right now, the tacit message of so many schools is actually: “You have to go through the motions here because that’s the way it’s always been. School is good, and if you’re not into it, shape up or ship out.” Hardly inspiring.”
Programs like Prep for Prep, however, are definitely inspiring—and committed to making a real difference in students’ lives.