CAST program provides academic boost to promising low-income students

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | GRASP program director Mary Ann Duffy tutors 19-year-old Blanca Lopez at the Greenport CAST offices on Monday.

Thanks to a $7,500 grant received by Community Action Southold Town, a number of North Fork girls will be getting academic help, including tutoring and preparation for Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SATs).

CAST will use the grant, funded by the Women’s FUnd of Long Island, to support its Girls Reach Academic Success Program — or GRASP — which targets low-income high school girls who show academic promise and helps them prepare for and win acceptance to four-year colleges, according to CAST grant writer Mary Ann Duffy of Southold.

“The Women’s Fund of Long Island is a charitable organization that invests in the power of women and the dreams of girls,” Ms. Duffy said. The grant may be a small one, but CAST is accustomed to doing much with little money, she said.

The grant enabled CAST to offer an SAT prep program to 10 girls in Southold Town to help improve their scores on tests critical to their college admission, Ms. Duffy said. The girls took the tests in November. GRASP focuses on tutoring in writing and math, test-taking and learning strategies, as well on SAT preparation.

Following the SAT prep sessions, CAST launched an after-school tutoring program aimed primarily at girls from Greenport, Ms. Duffy said. Statistics show that 30 percent come from low-income families where parents, struggling to make a living, may not have sufficient time to assist the girls with their studies, she added.

“With the minority population increasing, there is a real need to make sure that our low-income residents, especially girls, take advantage of educational opportunities to propel them forward economically,” said CAST executive director Linda Ortiz. “This is part of CAST’s mission in Southold Town.”

So far, the program is attracting students largely through word of mouth, Ms. Ortiz said.

CAST was one of only a dozen organizations, out of about 108 applicants, that received funding this year from the Women’s Fund of Long Island, Ms. Duffy said. CAST received the highest grant the fund offers and its aim is to renew the grant for the next two years. But after three consecutive years, the Women’s Fund requires grant recipients to take a two-year hiatus before applying for additional money, she said.

At the same time, the fund is helpful in identifying other sources of future money, Ms. Duffy said.

In addition to the grant, Ms. Duffy said, CAST has also received support from the Greenport Rotary, which paid for SAT study guides for this year. Other possible funding sources are considering requests to support GRASP.

Girls who wish to participate in the tutoring program can drop in at CAST headquarters in Greenport between 3 and 5 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays or on Saturdays by appointment. CAST can be reached at 477-1717.

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