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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Meet a woman who went from investing in stocks to investing in students.
She’s giving them a chance to get into New York City’s top high schools.
Tai Abrams wants to multiply the number of middle school students in underserved communities being accepted into New York City’s 40 selective high schools. To do that, they need to do well on a test some of their peers have been studying for since elementary school. That test is called the Specialized High School Admissions Test, or SHSAT.
“Right now, the New York City education system is 70% black and Latino, but the reality is only 10% comprise these elite high schools,” Abrams said.
She says the issues is access to test preparation, and families not even knowing about that opportunity. So Abrams, 33, founded the nonprofit AdmissionSquad in 2016.
“We can close that gap by providing access to tutoring, test prep, academic enrichment, application consulting,” she said.
Seventh graders at the Dock Street School are part of more than 100 citywide that the organization is preparing to take the SHSAT. Classes twice a week for nine months are free thanks to donations, and Abrams says she also offers deeply subsidized test prep to families.
Parent Cynthia McKnight says Tai helped her son, who struggles with attention deficit disorder.
“We were like ‘Oh wow, this is really working,'” McKnight said. “She inspires kids.”
“Everyone got encouragement for whatever they wanted to do,” said eighth-grade student Zelia Ryan-Young.
Abrams, the daughter of Guyanese immigrants, was raised by her single mom in East Flatbush. A friend’s dad informed and tutored her and a group of young black middle school students for the test.
“He helped a few of us to work on the ninth grade math regents in seventh grade and I got 100 on it,” Abrams said.
Tai says after she did well on that first exam, school officials actually doubted her.
“They couldn’t imagine these young black students getting, being able to score that high… They thought we cheated,” Abrams said.
Abrams graduated from the Bronx High School of Science, where she was one of 50 black students out of a school of 3,000. Abrams went on to study math at Duke University, dreaming of being an investment bank on Wall Street, but eventually switched gears to entrepreneurship.
Her most common piece of advice to students?
Tai’s first class of students is now graduating high school and will soon know where they’re going to college. But because of her, they know the sky’s the limit.
Abrams says each year, 80 percent of her students place into a top high school.
She’s offering free parent workshops next month. For more information about that, click here.