AZ Technology and Innovation: SAT Study Program for Low Income Students

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A group of Intel employees started a program two years ago to help low-income, high-performing students in the Phoenix-metro area prepare for the SAT college-entrance exam. Anil Goteti, CEO and co-founder of EqualOp and a packaging engineer at Intel, and Viva Valdez, a senior at Mountain View High School who is being helped by the program, will discuss EqualOp.

Ted Simons: Tonight's look at Arizona technology and innovation focuses on a group of Intel employees, who started a program called Equal-Op, which helps low-income, high-performing students in the Phoenix metro area prepare for the SAT college entrance exam. Joining us now is Anil Goteti, CEO and co-founder of Equal-Op and a packaging engineer at Intel, and Mountain View High School senior Viva Valdez, who is being helped by the program. Good to have you both here. Thanks for joining us.

Anil Goteti: Thank you for having me.

Ted Simons: Equal-Op. What are we talking about here?

Anil Goteti: So Equal-Op, as you know, stands for equal opportunity. The aim of our organization is to ensure that every student irrespective of his or her background believes college education is in reach. The way we do it, we help highly motivated but under resourced students prepare for the sat at no cost.

Ted Simons: How do kids qualify for this help?

Anil Goteti: The way we do it is we speak to the guidance counselors from various schools and we also speak to organizations and we recruit students based on GPA and also we need a student sat waiver form which only students from low-income backgrounds qualify.

Ted Simons: It's a big one and 3.0 GPA, something along those lines?

Anil Goteti: We have GPAs, different criteria. The students have to satisfy both the criteria to be eligible.

Ted Simons: And it lasts how long?

Anil Goteti: This program runs for five weeks and we actually come in for two times a week and each class is for around two hours.

Ted Simons: Viva, describe how this program has worked for you.

Viva Valdez: Well, during the summer, I actually took the act with no preparation and that wasn't a very good idea. I didn't feel very confident coming out of the test and so with Equal-Op and their sat prep, I think it's really helped me prepare for the test and I just took the test this past Saturday and I felt very confident coming out of it.

Ted Simons: It helps you prepare for the test how? Do they give you test type of questions, how exactly does that work?

Viva Valdez: We go to classes actually every Tuesday and Saturday morning and they're more classrooms orientated, it's a one-on-one tutoring session.

Ted Simons: It sounds like as Viva was saying, the emphasis is on the test. This is not necessarily for the well-rounded education. This is for that test?

Anil Goteti: Oh, yeah so Equal-Op is focused on a very different problem. As we know that sat plays a very crucial role in helping students get into elite colleges and get them good scholarships, the main aim of our organization is to make sure that students do well on the SATs. That's our main focus.

Ted Simons: Any other friends of yours, any other students at the high school taking this or people in other high schools? Is it a big class?

Viva Valdez: There were actually two classes of about 20 students, 40 students in all roughly and I did have a couple of friends from Mountain View come with me. And a lot of kids from all over the valley came to Equal-Op.

Ted Simons: Now, after Equal-Op, did you take the test again?

Viva Valdez: Uh-huh.

Ted Simons: And?

Viva Valdez: And I got my results in two weeks.

Ted Simons: How do you feel you did?

Viva Valdez: I felt very confident coming out of the test and it wasn't as scary as I expected it to be because Equal-Op helped prepare me for what type of questions were going to be on there and how to strategize getting through the test.

Ted Simons: That's almost as important as the actual instruction is having the experience of going through all this where you're not sitting down sweating because it's the first time you've seen a test.

Viva Valdez: Right.

Ted Simons: And that is a big deal that experience, that confidence.

Anil Goteti: Yes. And I would also like to emphasize the volunteers. The volunteers are our biggest asset and to be frank, most of the volunteers are from Intel who shares a strong passion for teaching and also we did receive a grant from Intel and that's what helped us to get this going. And the beauty of this organization is we actually recycle the books so the books that we use for fall we are going to reuse for spring, too. So we are, in fact, almost self-sustaining because of that.

Ted Simons: Viva's going to find out the results in a couple of weeks, but what have seen as far as results?

Anil Goteti: The way we actually for us to evaluate what we do is we actually let students take the diagnostic test before the class and we take one after the class. Just to see how they're doing. So we did find an improvement in the scores and also, the reviews from most of the students were very positive because they did learn a lot of information, and it's a win-win situation for students and also, the volunteers.

Ted Simons: What got you started in this?

Anil Goteti: So I was in the library one day and my student was trying to solve a problem from an SAT textbook. I wanted to help him out because he was going bonkers and within a few moments, there was a private tutor that came by, and he helped him out. How about students who could not afford private tutors? And the next day, there was an interesting editorial in the newspaper that spoke about how students from low-income backgrounds, despite having good GPAs, suffer from poor SAT scores due to lack of proper mentorship. It also spoke about how the grades are crucial in helping students get into elite colleges. And then I spoke about this with a few of my colleagues at Intel and that's how we started.

Ted Simons: You have to have a pretty good GPA to get into this program. What do you think you did so well in school, with tests in school and here comes this test and not so well? What was going on there?

Viva Valdez: Honestly, I think it's the four hours of sitting down and taking a test of material that school, I haven't found that's really prepared me to take this test, that's going to help me get into the college I want to go to, and I mean, especially with the math section, I forgot almost everything I've learned from my sophomore and junior year and so Intel and Equal-Op really helped me to brush up on those skills which came up all over the place on the test.

Ted Simons: And what's next for you? We're going to assume you passed, what are you going to do?

Viva Valdez: Well, I'm hoping to go to school in California and major in the dramatic arts, but for the schools like UCLA and USC that I want to get into, I need a good score and good scholarships.

Ted Simons: All right. Well, good luck to you.

Anil Goteti: Thank you.

Ted Simons: And congratulations to you, great program. Good to have you here.

Anil Goteti: Likewise.

Ted Simons: And that is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Anil Goteti:CEO and Co-Founder, EqualOp; Viva Valdez:Senior, Mountain View High School;

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