WATERLOO — Getting the highest possible score on a college entrance exam can be important as students make post-high school plans.
That’s why Lacey Van Dyke is preparing to retake the ACT. But the West High School senior sensed her efforts would be more successful with some assistance. She signed up for ACT prep classes at the University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Urban Education.
“I knew I needed this because I took the ACT before and knew I wasn’t prepared,” she said, while working in class last week to figure out the area of a triangle. Math prep has been helpful since she is not taking the subject in school this year. And, although Van Dyke thinks of English as a good subject for her, she is attending English and writing prep to brush up on all of the rules referenced on the test.
Elizabeth Weidner, a Columbus Catholic High School senior, also is looking for a boost by retaking the ACT. “I heard from other people after taking this class their scores went up a few points,” she said.
The prep classes, offered since 2014 and taught by college students, are one of the ways UNI-CUE provides free academic help to the community. Mondays through Thursdays two 80-minute sessions are held on one of the subjects: science, English and writing, reading and math.
Sixty-three students from high schools in and around the Cedar Valley were served through the ACT prep in the fall and nearly 20 have signed up since second semester classes started three weeks ago.
One-on-one tutoring services also are available during after-school hours at the downtown center. Students of all ages participate and currently come from nine area school districts for the sessions, which last about 1-1/2 hours.
UNI junior Kindra Petersen tutors Reggie O’Malley, a Kingsley Elementary School fifth-grader who is newly signed up for the program. They were reading the book “Katie Kazoo Switcheroo: I’m Game!” one day last week while working on reading comprehension. The pair was recently matched after Petersen found time in her busy schedule to volunteer.
“This semester I have a class that kind of carved out time so I could be here,” she said. “I’m an education major, so I love working with students. It’s a good opportunity.”
The service started eight years ago with six tutors from UNI and 10 students. Now, there are 134 tutors and 91 students receiving services. Most of the tutors attend UNI, but four are students at Cedar Falls, East and West high schools.
“We were just trying to fill in those gaps that historically we heard about,” said Robert Smith, UNI-CUE director, of the services that are provided. University officials’ interest in providing community engagement opportunities for students drove their involvement in the tutoring. “It’s good for those college students because they get to work with a wide range of students,” he added.
“We have a few kindergartners, probably three or four,” said Megan Holbach, UNI-CUE assistant director. The “large chunk needing services,” though, are in third- through eighth-grades.
High school students enroll as well, including Columbus freshman Alex Smith. Last week was his second session with UNI senior Maddie McNeil. Even though they were just getting started, he already felt the tutoring was having an affect.
“We’re working on math and finding standard deviations from the averages of numbers,” said Smith. He admitted it was hard at first, “but it gets easier with help.”