Students practice at NAACP clinic to improve their scores on the SAT Mfume, athletic coaches give encouragement, tips

April 20, 1997|By Jean Thompson | Jean Thompson,SUN STAFF

Coorsley Edwards, a Lake Clifton-Eastern High School senior, has an offer from Central Connecticut State University and a shot at a basketball scholarship.

All that stands in his way is 50 points.

That's how much more he must earn to attain a score of 820 points out of a possible 1,600 on the SAT test that will allow him to qualify for athletic aid. But because he scored 770 on his last try in February, he must take the test again.

So yesterday, instead of sleeping late, the 18-year-old forward-center and all-star hunkered down over a sample SAT test at the Northwest Baltimore headquarters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

"It's about practice, practice, practice," Edwards, 18, said at the "SAT Pre-Game Clinic," which was aimed at young athletes but open to all students.

"It's the vocabulary -- there are so many big words there right next to each other -- that's what I need to work on."

The NAACP has teamed with the Princeton Review, a company that offers SAT preparation courses, to provide free tips and inspiration for area students, who often cannot afford tutors or private test-readiness classes.

The SAT, used by many colleges to screen applicants for admission and financial aid, is not an intelligence test: It reveals a student's ability to use basic formulas of arithmetic, algebra and geometry and the breadth of his or her vocabulary.

About 30 students from area public and private schools completed a practice SAT in about three hours, then soaked up pep talks and test-taking advice.

Some were as young as 14, participating to get a preview of the test. One was a senior, already accepted by the University of Maryland to major in biochemistry: She scored 1,200 on the SAT, and won't take it again.

"I don't think you can ever practice taking tests enough: I'm going to have many more tests to take in college," said Keishauna Banks, 18, a Pikesville High School senior and regionally ranked shot putter and discus thrower who wants to become a doctor.

Many others at the clinic have set their hearts on sports careers.

High school students must meet a series of academic and entrance-test requirements to qualify for athletic scholarships and to compete at schools in the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

A student with a 2.0 average in core academic courses must obtain a combined verbal and math score of 1,010 on the SAT to play for a Division I school. With a grade point average of 2.5, a student needs a minimum score of 820 on the test.

"Never shoot for the minimum," UMBC basketball coach Tom Sullivan told the students yesterday. "There are no excuses to not to be smart. I want hard work. I want dedication. I want serious pursuit of education."

Outside NAACP headquarters, Coorsley Edwards' anxious mother, Debbie, paced with other parents and volunteers.

Coorsley has been pursued by athletic recruiters, and his mother supports his dream of playing ball, but wants him to prepare for a sportscasting or other communications career.

"I told him in front of the coach: They are going to use you -- to play -- but you're going to have use them to get the education that you need," she said. "I'm hoping this event will teach him some study skills; he has the drive."

Inside the hall, NAACP President Kweisi Mfume urged the students to remember that star athletes "were not born juggling a ball in both hands and wearing track shoes on their feet."

Star students must be as disciplined, he said: "It's not how you start in life that counts, it's how you finish."

Pub Date: 4/20/97

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