May 14, 2014 | Connor Schmidt

High school junior Parris Montgomery never liked math. But, after participating in Calvin’s Excel ACT tutoring program this fall, she is thriving in the subject she once scorned. 

Thanks to the Amway Corporation’s One by One grant, which Calvin recently received for the sixth consecutive year, more students like Montgomery will experience the one-on-one attention that Calvin’s Excel ACT tutoring program provides.

The grant is awarded to organizations that impact youth at risk, and the tutoring initiative, which pairs high school students with college tutors, does just that.

“For our office, the phrase ‘one by one’ has a two-fold meaning,” Calvin’s director of pre-college programs, Nygil Likely, explains. “One by one we reach students and teach them on an individual level, maximizing their potential. And one by one we remove the barriers that may prevent each student from access to college.”

Individualized attention

Montgomery has seen firsthand just how much difference individualized attention can make in terms of college preparation. Through the Excel program, she was partnered with Calvin junior, Anneke Essenburg, a secondary education major, who joined the program to gain experience helping and teaching high school students.

Every semester Calvin students like Essenburg journey alongside high school students as they prepare to take the ACT exam. The program’s ultimate aim is to empower high school students to apply to and attend college by means of both personal encouragement and tutoring for academic readiness.

The results?  Ninety-four percent of high school participants plan on applying to and enrolling in college after their Excel ACT experience. (Only 50% reported plans to enroll prior to entering the program.)

“I received my ACT results and, after looking at my math score, I was shocked,” Montgomery says. “Was this really my test? It was amazing!”

Though the Excel program ended after a semester, Montgomery and Essenburg still meet together weekly. “I told my mom that I enjoyed working with Anneke so we kept tutoring even after the program ended,” Montgomery shares.

Continuing their mission

Likely says he is grateful to Amway for supporting the college’s efforts to reach students in the Grand Rapids community and promote higher education. “Calvin is blessed to work with organizations like Amway that are focused on their community,” he says. “Without their generosity and civic-mindedness, our access to underrepresented populations would be severely limited.”

Amway’s One by One grant is helping Calvin College to reach high school students all over the Grand Rapids area and break down barriers that might prevent them from attending college.

Likely affirms, “If you reach one, you teach one.”

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