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Algebra Camp Aims to Boost College Entry for African-American Teens

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Teaching assistant Jonathan Curtiss checks the work of Alyse Wilson, 11 (L) and Kayla White, 12, during the fourth week of a pre-algebra class at the West Angeles Church Youth Center on Thursday afternoon, July 30, 2015. (Maya Sugarman/KPCC)

Dozens of African-American teenagers just finished a six-week algebra program at the West Angeles Church of God in Christ Youth Center in Los Angeles' Crenshaw neighborhood.

The program is part of the Summer Algebra Institute, one of 18 math academies statewide funded by California State University in an uncommon partnership with 18 African-American churches this summer. In sites located from Sacramento to Whittier, each enrolled around 550 students.

The institute's aim is to close a wide academic achievement gap between African-American students and those in other ethnic groups in California.

Educators reached out to the students' families through the churches. With their connections in the community, church leaders helped the program find qualified students.

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Increasing math competency is a critical part of the countrywide efforts to raise achievement for low-performing students, since doing poorly in high school math doesn’t just shut the doors to an engineering career. For many students, it shuts the doors to college itself.

"This was a way to get students academically prepared so that they could complete the math sequence in four years in high school. That way, they’re guaranteed access to college,” said Jacqueline Mimms, a founder of the algebra program and the head of enrollment at California State University, Bakersfield.

Read the full story via KPCC

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