Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs



Denise Hayman
Denise Hayman



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News Release

Contact: Joseph King, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-4299

July 20, 2009

NIU helping Chicago-area students sharpen
math skills before they reach campus

DeKalb, Ill. — While many high school graduates are enjoying their summer days of freedom before heading off to college, Jessica Brown is instead spending six hours a day sharpening her geometry, algebra and trigonometry skills in preparation for her freshman year at Northern Illinois University.

Brown and more than 40 other students, most newly minted high school graduates from Chicago Public Schools, are getting a jumpstart on college-level mathematics through an NIU pilot program known as the Summer Math College.

The first-year pilot, conducted at Roosevelt University in Chicago to make it easily accessible, was offered this summer to students who will be entering NIU in the fall semester through the McKinley “Deacon” Davis CHANCE Program.

Free of charge, the Summer Math College provides intensive mathematics instruction and one-on-one tutoring to the incoming freshmen. The assistance is aimed at helping the students strengthen their mathematical foundations and achieve better math placements when they arrive at NIU.

“I wanted to work on my math skills before I get on campus,” says Brown, who graduated in June from Chicago’s Michele Clark Academic Preparatory Magnet High School. She plans on becoming an elementary school teacher.

“I have already taken the math placement exam, and (the Summer Math College) actually helped me a lot,” she says. “I’m also having fun while learning. I’m not getting frustrated or giving up easily because it has been explained in a way I understand it.”

Leading the program are Lateef Moody and Naama Lewis, two highly qualified instructors who have special expertise working with students from urban high schools.

The Summer Math College has drawn students from city high schools such as Juarez, Hirsch, Dunbar, Julian and Hyde Park, as well as from suburban Thornton Fractional South, Rich South and Proviso West.

The participating students are highly motivated. Since June 15, they’ve attended the math classes from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The program ends July 23, when students will visit the NIU campus in DeKalb for a luncheon.

“It is a big commitment, but you have to want it for yourself,” says Joseph Willie, a recent graduate of Simeon Career Academy who intends to study criminology at NIU. “This program was a door open for me because I was missing a couple layers in my math foundation. It’s truly been a blessing.”

NIU is hoping to expand the Summer Math College next year. It will again be open to all students entering the university through the CHANCE program.

The mission of CHANCE is to identify, recruit and assist capable students whose pre-college education may have lacked resources that benefit most college students. For more than 40 years at NIU, the CHANCE program has provided students who demonstrate strong motivation and potential for success with opportunities to gain admission to NIU.

CHANCE looks for characteristics such as special talents, leadership potential, personal commitment, goal orientation and significant activities and accomplishments. Thousands of NIU students who came to NIU through the program have graduated and continued their education to become doctors, lawyers, professors, teachers and other professionals.

“Generally speaking, math is probably one of the subjects that college students don’t gain enough exposure to in high school, despite the fact that a strong mathematics foundation is critically important for many careers,” says Denise Hayman, director of the NIU CHANCE program.

“Once students are admitted to NIU, we want them to be successful,” Hayman adds. “We also want them to overcome any anxiety they might have about mathematics and see it as something they enjoy.”

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