NEW YORK (FOX 5 NY) - The pressure is on with just about a month to go until test day for the Specialized High School Admissions test, the lone entry exam for entry into the City's eight elite high schools.
"I've been thinking about it since sixth grade because I've always wanted to go to a high school where I can get into a good college," said eigth grader Damani Nathan, who lives in Bed-Stuy and attends the Dock Street School for STEAM studies in Dumbo.
Nathan and his classmates have their hopes set on schools like Stuyvesant High School, Brooklyn Tech and Bronx Science. But many of the students realize the odds for admission are against them.
"In a lot of schools like Stuyvesant or Brooklyn Tech, there's a lack of diversity of students," said eigth grader Amira James of Fort Greene.
Last year, just four percent, or 190 out of 4800 students admitted to the elite schools were black.
Together black and hispanic students got just over 10 percent of spots, despite comprising a majority of the public school population.
The statistics have sparked public outrage and promises from the Mayor to desegregate city schools.
De Blasio has proposed eliminating the SHSAT altogether, but that proposal has languished.
Tai Abrams, herself a graduate of an elite school, decided to take matters into her own hands.
"I was able to go to Bronx Science, went to Duke University, started off my career in government consulting, came back to ny and noticed that alot of black and brown students were not getting into the specialized high schools,” she said.
Her solution: free SHSAT prep courses for students who can't otherwise afford extra help.
She started the non-profit Admissions Squad in 2016 to serve students in ten school districts considered “educationally underserved.”
“We’ve placed over 30 students into specialized high schools and over 100 students into top high schools,” she said of the program’s success.
Abrams begins recruiting students and their parents as early as fifth grade.
Classes are taught on weekends and during the summer, and also after school at Dock Street several days a week.
Abrams says online courses are coming, and the hope is to move into more schools.
Admissions Squad is currently taking applications for 6th and 7th graders who want to begin test prep in the new year. They’re also offering free practice test sessions for 8th graders who plan to take the SHSAT in late October.