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LaPREP – Celebrating 25 years of Success!

July 28, 2016

LaPREP, also known as Louisiana Preparatory Program, has approached its 25th anniversary and continues to earn national recognition, honor, and praise for its extraordinary efforts to educate, embolden, and motivate young students.
Dr. Carlos Spaht, director, visionary, and developer of LaPREP, expresses his passion for the program and the incredible skills and hope it has given to young school children.

"I've gotten so many responses from former participants through cards, letters, phone calls, and emails who say how LaPREP has transformed their lives as far as making them believe in themselves, making them want to go to college as first generation college students, and making them reach for goals much higher than they originally wanted to reach for," Dr. Spaht said. "But I think that every student who leaves here comes out of this program believing that they can go to college and successfully complete a college program. I think that they get to the first time in their lives where they can see that they can actually accomplish things in life that they never thought that they could, that they never thought was a possibility."

The LaPREP program takes place during the summer on the LSU Shreveport campus and has seen more than 700 young people from the Shreveport/Bossier City area successfully complete the two-year program.

The enrichment program identifies, encourages, and instructs competent middle and early high school students, with special attention to include women and minority students, preparing them to complete a college degree program in math, science, or engineering. With emphasis on abstract reasoning, problem solving, and technical writing skills, participants attend seven weeks of intellectually demanding classes and seminars, interspersed with field trips and recreation.

There are no other programs in the area that do what LaPREP and its related programs do - mentoring and instructing the high-ability, mostly lower income, mostly minority students from fifth grade through high school, although the faculty's long term goal is to expand LaPREP to other university campuses across the state.

For many students, they would not be where they are today if it were not for LaPREP and the passionate and committed faculty, staff, and donors of the program. For an Airline High School graduate, this could not be any truer.

"LaPREP helped me to be more prepared because I was one of the first people in my family to go to college," said Trayvon Snow, a graduate of the LaPREP program and a junior at LSUS. "The speakers further made me want to go to college. The curriculum prepared me for high school level work because I had already seen some of the same work in LaPREP. So I was a step ahead most of the students."

In addition to no charges for fees, tuition, lunches, or transportation, LaPREP is a gift that keeps on giving. Students who successfully complete two years of LaPREP are eligible to apply for the LaPREP scholarships of $500 per semester for four years to attend LSU Shreveport as entering college freshmen, which is added to any level of a TOPS reward that the student receives from the state of Louisiana. Such a gift is treasured by those who would otherwise have no way to afford college.

"The LaPREP scholarship helped tremendously. It paid for all of my books and I also have TOPS to help me pay for my college education," Snow said.

A junior at LSUS majoring in pre-med and cellular and molecular biology, Snow is pursuing a dream that LaPREP helped to cultivate.

"I am a Program Assistant in LaPREP, which is where I help the kids with their schoolwork and mentor them," Snow said. "I am going to school to be a pediatrician, so I really like kids. Being able to help them fits in great with my love for kids and my career goals to be a doctor. I probably play with them too much because I know how it feels to be in their shoes. I love it."

The Shreveport City Council has twice awarded LaPREP for its contribution in math and science to the youth in Shreveport. The Mathematical Association of America gave LaPREP an award for its contribution in mathematics in the state of Louisiana. LaPREP has also received awards from the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.

Dr. Carlos Spaht has also been honored by the many prestigious local, regional, and national awards for quality teaching, public service, and his work with LaPREP. In 2007, in Washington, D.C., he was awarded United States Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation and Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

"I wanted to reach out and do more for my fellow man," Dr. Spaht said about the creation of the exceptional LaPREP program. "I really wanted to reach out and help younger people because we have a weakness in math and science in this country. I wanted to reach out particularly to first generation college students and minorities who didn't have some of the same chances as some of the other students and try to bring them into math and science enrichment programs to motivate them to go to college and successfully complete college, preferably in math or science."

After years of envisioning such a program to enhance young students' lives academically, Dr. Spaht was himself motivated by a minority high school drop-out.

"I kept thinking about this program, but then I kept putting it on the shelf because in that time it was way back in the late ‘80s and no one was writing grant applications, including me," Dr. Spaht said. "I would have to develop the curriculum and raise the money and recruit teachers. Then a middle school teacher came to me and said that she had a little fellow that would be perfect for my program and I'll never forget this. He was the best student in class, the most popular student in class, and the leader of the class. But, two or three years later she told me he had dropped out of high school, joined a gang, and was on drugs. That just broke my heart, and that's when I started writing grant applications even though I didn't know a thing about what I was doing. It took three years before I finally started the program. That young boy is really the motivation behind LaPREP."

The outstanding program has established a link with the LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport which allows LaPREP graduates to enter JUMPSTART, one of a series of medical research programs in the LSUHSC pipeline of programs that support and encourage students to pursue medical careers.

Those too young to enroll in LaPREP have the option of attending the two-year pre-LaPREP program named GetSet for LaPREP. This unique program offers academic and social encouragement and instruction to high-ability, mostly minority students who are about to enter the fifth and sixth grades.

In addition to preparing students for LaPREP, the program has also instituted a newer post-LaPREP program called AVEA (Animation and Visual Effects Academy). The aim of AVEA is to continue to influence students in high school who have graduated from LaPREP.

"The biggest drop-out times are ninth and tenth grade in high school, so we wanted something to go past LaPREP into those grade areas where we could keep the students occupied academically, hence the AVEA program," Dr. Spaht said. "Having something here at LSUS gets the kids to come to a college campus, and meet college students, but it also helps us encourage them to enroll at LSUS."

This year's LaPREP graduation ceremony took place on July 14 and recognized and honored the students who have committed themselves to their academic work during the summer months. Attendees also heard from guest speaker Mayor Ollie Tyler as she applauded and encouraged students to keep on being the best that they can be.

The outstanding initiatives and growths of LaPREP have prepared the way for young children to develop skills in math, science, engineering, and reading and writing so that they have the ability to seek a solid, successful, and rewarding career that, without LaPREP, would not have been possible.

For more information about LaPREP, or to learn how to enroll your child, please visit the LaPREP website.

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