DHS hosts academic, ACT camp

Published 7:29 pm Wednesday, September 17, 2008

When you think about camps for young people, you think about summer camp, church camp, sports camps and Scouting camps. Demopolis High School is hosting an academic camp for students studying for the ACT — the American College Testing Program Inc., a test taken by high school students for qualification for scholarships that is also a measuring stick for college admission itself.

“The ACT is a very critical assessment in terms of allowing us to see how well we’re doing instructionally,” said DHS principal Dr. Isaac Espy Jr. “It is also a critical assessment in terms of our students getting scholarships and admissions to colleges and universities.

“We take our preparation for the ACT very seriously. We have a scholarship program for the top five ACT scores in our senior class — our Super Seniors — that comes with cash scholarships. Our students are very competitive with ACTs. We expect our advanced and honors students to post scores by the fall of their 11th-grade year, and then to continue to improve on that score. We have ninth-graders and 10th-graders who have posted scores, and good scores. Our ACT scores are on the rise, and we are very pleased with that trend.”

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The ACT Camp will be held over the next two Saturdays — Sept. 20 and 27 — at Demopolis High School, and will last for three hours each day. DHS teachers will lead the camp, and will cover math, science and English with the assistance of an ACT preparation text. If you think the students are shying away from an academic camp, think again. Every available slot — 20 slots in each area — has already been filled.

“The response has been overwhelming,” Espy said. “We basically filled up two weekends with a 20-person limit in each class in three different subjects in just one day. Most of these students are juniors and seniors, but we’ve had calls from parents of ninth-graders wanting to get their children in. We’ll do whatever we can to accommodate them, but this is a reflection of how our students are taking the ACT very seriously. We’re proud of the response.

“We have a number of teachers who are very willing to work with these students. They will be teaching three hours in each subject. We want our teachers to hit the high points of the test, going over the commonly missed portions of the test and get our students primed and ready to go.”

Students are taking the initiative to do as well as they can on the ACT.

“I had a student who did extremely well,” Espy said. “They scored a 34 in science, and this student wants to pick up four or five points in math. It may come down to one point as far as who qualifies for a scholarship. It’s showing a lot of initiative on that student’s part.”

The next scheduled ACT test is Saturday, Oct. 25, and can be taken in Livingston or in Linden.

“That will be the last ACT score that can qualify our students for Super Senior scholarships,” Espy said. “The ACT is also offered in December and in the spring, but we want our seniors to post their best score in October to have time to get their ACT score back and include that in scholarship information. In the spring, it’s too late for scholarships. December is about too late; the good scholarships are gone. We want our students to have that best score posted this fall and grab some good scholarships.”

Espy is working to make Demopolis an ACT testing center as well.

“Eventually, we want Demopolis High School or Alabama Southern to be ACT test sites,” he said. “We want our students to have every advantage as possible.

“It is a critical test, and it is a universal test. A student can have a 4.0 (grade-point average), but the college or university still wants to see the ACT score, because that is a universal gauge for how well the student takes tests and how prepared he is for college. There are plenty of examples of students coming out of high schools with a 4.0 and made a 15 on their ACT, and the college or university will say that this student has not learned what they need to know for college.”

Demopolis students have traditionally fared well on the ACT, and with preparatory programs like the new ACT camp, that tradition is bound to get stronger.