Academy targets low success rates

Program helps African-American students pass English classes

By Xavier Johnson, Scene Editor

The Per Ankh Academy continues its efforts to address the low success rate of African-American students in English classes while raising cultural awareness as the program enters its second transfer learning community for the 2016-17 academic year

The academy is a learning community founded on the Contra Costa College campus last year by math professor and Per Ankh coordinator Sherry Sharufa, history department Chairperson Manu Ampim, history department co-chair Carolyn Hodge, and transfer counselor Andrea Phillips. The goal is to address the issue of African-American students who struggle to pass English 142B and English 1A, two classes that are necessary to transfer to a four-year college.

The program’s goal is to assist African-American students to complete English 142B during the fall semester and English 1A in the spring semester. The program is funded by the Student Equity Plan, which is administered through the California Community College Chancellor’s Office.

The equity plan pinpointed this problem and the best way to address it is a learning community, where students take several classes together, Sharufa said.

Students in Per Ankh get the benefit of having a peer group of students all taking the same classes so they get the chance to know and help each other. Tutoring is also available.

Sharufa said she is already seeing bonding between members this semester. “I see students coming to tutoring together and getting together to study,” she said, illustrating the advantages of creating a learning community.

Nursing major and Per Ankh student Terrie Simms said having teachers  that she can get to know is helpful.

Students in Per Ankh are expected to meet a high academic standard as a condition of their membership, Sharufa said. Students need to maintain a minimum GPA above 2.5 and submit regular progress reports to Hodge.

“I want students to not just get an A, but to understand the material. Students need to feel enthusiastic about learning. They (need to) feel like they’re needed on campus,” Sharufa said.

Per Ankh translates to “house of life,” the name for ancient Egyptian schools or libraries where scribes would prepare their hieroglyphic texts.

In order for students to become members they must first complete English 142A or earn an equivalent score on the college English assessment test.

Students must also fill out an application, provide an academic reference and attend a mandatory orientation.

Per Ankh Academy members are also expected to attend monthly get-togethers, called Indaba meetings, on the third Wednesday of each month.

Sharufa said she invites outside sources to help guide students.

Last month a person from the Disabled Students’ Program and Services spoke at the meeting.

Per Ankh also has the goal of making members more culturally and socially aware.

Sharufa said, “These talks help students learn something they may not otherwise learn. We learn a lot about slavery, but there’s so much more to African history students can know.”

Undecided major T’era Anthony said, “There aren’t many groups on campus that represent and talk about African-American history so I wanted to be a part of it.” Anthony said she struggles with her English class and Per Ankh is helping her pass it, with all the help she is getting from fellow members and faculty.