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Eufaula High School students sing praises of school's ACT preparation program

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Eufaula High School on Thursday hosted Janet Godwin, CEO of ACT, Inc., as well as Alabama Department of Education representatives.

During the visit, students shared testimonials of how the school, and especially Olivia Jones, has prepared them for the standardized test.

Joining Godwin from ACT, Inc. were Tina Gridiron, vice president for the ACT Center for Equity in Learning, and Tracey Englund, videographer. Representatives from the Alabama Department of Education included Dr. Wayne Reynolds, president pro tem for the state board, District 8; Carol Reynolds; Tracie West, state board, District 2; Dr. Tony Thacker, state partnership director for ACT; and Shanthia Washington.

Local board members for Eufaula City Schools also attended.

ACT, Inc. is primarily known for the ACT, a standardized test designed to assess high school students’ academic achievement and college readiness. The ACT covers four academic skills: English, mathematics, reading and scientific reasoning. It also offers an optional direct writing test. It is accepted by all four-year colleges and universities in the United States and more than 225 universities outside of the U.S. The main four ACT sections are individually scored on a scale of 1–36, and a composite score (the rounded whole number average of the four sections) is provided.

Jones is the mastermind behind the ACT Prep classes at Eufaula High School. She is a native of Huntsville who has lived in Eufaula for the last 10 years. She graduated from the University of Alabama in 2011 with a secondary English education degree. After teaching at Eufaula High School for five years, Olivia decided to further her education and, in 2019, graduated from Faulkner Law School. While awaiting her Alabama State Bar Exam results, Olivia was drawn back to teaching at Eufaula High School, where the skills she learned applying for law school found a new application in test prep. She currently teaches ACT Prep full-time at Eufaula High School.

ACT Prep is an elective class with no fee so any student who would like to participate can do so without worrying about having to pay anything. ACT Prep is also extended beyond the regular class day. Tutoring is conducted before and after school, in the summer and on Saturdays through mock tests. Eufaula High School had 12 students score 30+ last year. Those students, now part of the “30 Club” are Annie Wingate, Kathryn Tye, Ethan McCullough, Birch Cochran, Trenton Buffenbarger, Trinity Gant, Maddie Register, Merly Hernandez-Diaz, Luke Padgett, Samuel Miller, Averi O’Brien and Garrett Mottley.

Students in the ACT Prep class increased on average between the PreACT to the ACT by 2.67 points. On average, students not in the class rose between the PACT and the ACT .29 points. That means students in the class increased nine times that of their peers not in the class.

Students who gave testimonials to the guests were Maddie Register, Lilly Bush, Trinity Gant, Merly Hernandez-Diaz, Catie Reed Wilbourne, Kaden Ingram, James Lawrence, Samuel Miller, Gia Patel, Patrick Screws, Heaven Duckworth, Heaven Thomas, Presley Vannoy, Rachel Webb, Mary Helen White, De’Jiah Williams, Derrick Williams and Annie Wingate.

Maddie Register, a junior with a score of 33 who wants to be an attorney and hopes to attend Columbia University and major in political science and English, mentioned that Jones “knows the test like the back of her hand.”

Merly Hernandez-Diaz, a senior with a score of 31 and a first-generation student of immigrant parents, said, “My main worry for college is my financial needs, but the ACT is opening doors for me to attend college.”

Annie Wingate, a senior who has a score of 33, mentioned the competitiveness of her family and her motivation to beat her brothers’ scores. She is continuing to test to make sure her younger brother doesn’t beat her score.

Trinity Gant, a junior who has a score of 32 and hopes to attend Howard University and major in biomedical science, mentioned one of the best pieces of advice given to her by Mrs. Jones was to relax the week before the actual test.

Another member of the 30 Club, Samuel Miller is a senior who is the state Vice President for FFA and is very involved in many extracurricular activities just like the other speakers. Samuel plans to attend Yale, major in environmental science and later become an attorney. He mentioned MathChops, an online learning program provided by Eufaula City Schools, for practice because he wanted a boost in math.

Heaven Thomas and Heaven Duckworth, both juniors who plan to take the upcoming test, are creating a TikTok for Eufaula High School about test-taking strategies they have learned. They are making this TikTok for schools that do not have an ACT Prep program.

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