Norton Fellow Engages Hometown Peers in Summer Project

Senior Kennedy Anderson last summer led a six-week tutoring and mentoring program for high school students living near her hometown of Detroit, Michigan, as part of her Norton Fellowship, a community engagement program administered by Loomis Chaffee’s Norton Family Center for the Common Good.

Having the access and resources to invest in test preparation has helped Kennedy maximize her college entrance exam test scores and position herself well for admission. Recognizing this privilege, Kennedy was inspired to implement a free college entrance test prep program for young people in her hometown who otherwise might not have been able to afford such a program.   

Kennedy reached out to Math 4 Success, a Detroit-based small business that offers low-cost tutoring in math and STEM (science, technology engineering, and mathematics) topics to prepare underserved students for academic and professional success. With the administrative assistance of Math 4 Success, Kennedy enrolled two dozen students in her tuition-free SAT Test Prep class that ran from July 11 through August 22 and included a math and English class every week, four practice SAT exams, and two college essay-writing workshops. Due to COVID-19 safety restrictions, all the classes were conducted via Zoom video conference.   

Before the start of her summer project, Kennedy said she was worried she would have difficulty generating and sustaining student interest in her program because of COVID-19. Many colleges announced last spring that their admissions would be “test optional” this year due to the pandemic, and as a result, many students were choosing not to study for the tests, she said. “Students could … increase their chances at admission if they earned a score either within or above that college’s median, [so I] used this in my marketing strategy,” Kennedy noted. 

In addition to enrolling students and gathering test prep teaching resources, Kennedy enlisted the help of Jed Stuart, her college counselor at Loomis Chaffee, to teach the college essay-writing workshops. She followed through on her planned delivery of lessons across the six-week schedule. In the end, not every student completed all of the practice tests, but Kennedy was pleased that those who did saw a marked increase in their score.

“To see a student’s score go from the 1000s to the 1300s was remarkable for me. I remember thinking to myself, ‘It’s working!’ and feeling assured that my project was actually having an impact in my students’ lives,” she said.

Beyond helping to improve their scores, Kennedy’s plan aimed to help her students connect with their hometown peers — something she felt was important as COVID-19 safety restrictions had limited social interaction since early spring. The social activities Kennedy organized included group online games and a pizza party.  

“A really popular pizza chain in my community has an online order option, so I chose a location that was closest to the students and ordered the pizza for them to pick up right before the pizza party. We played Kahoot [an online quiz game] and a really interesting and heated game of Zoom Mafia! It was a lot of fun,” she said.

Math 4 Success officials spoke highly of working with Kennedy and commented on her high level of maturity, her self-confidence, and her commitment to helping her peers achieve their goals. They said the students responded positively to Kennedy’s energy and enthusiasm.

“Kennedy came to us with her own vision and a plan for action, which she executed in a very professional manner,” said Leron Lightfoot, the company’s founder and chief executive officer. Along with the lessons, he noted, the opportunities for social interactions that Kennedy fostered were especially welcome given the isolation the students experienced from the pandemic.

“We’re all about community impact,” he said.

Chief Operations Officer Kelly S. Harris said Math 4 Success also plans to incorporate some of Kennedy’s ideas and practices into its existing SAT prep curriculum, including encouraging social connections among the students and offering several opportunities to take the practice exams.

With her summer project completed, Kennedy is working with Heather Henderson, Loomis’ director of community engagement, to include the SAT test prep program in the school’s tutoring outreach activities. One of the objectives of the Norton Fellowships is for the fellows to adapt their summer projects into initiatives back on the Island.

“Kennedy demonstrated through this project that she is a true leader,” said Keller Family Director of the Norton Center Eric LaForest. “She found that perfect intersection of her ability and an authentic need. Very few students can move from empathy to ideation to action like [she] did.”

Connect to the Math 4 Success website for more information about the business.  

For more about the Norton Fellows and other center activities, connect to the Norton Family Center for the Common Good page of the Loomis Chaffee website. 

Jed Stuart, associate director of College Guidance teaches a college essay-writing course via Zoom.