Black graduates of Stuyvesant High School, disturbed by the paltry number of African American students admitted to the prestigious school and other specialized exam high schools, are offering a free cram course -- a "boot camp" -- beginning Sept. 17 to help prepare 8th-grade minority students for the Specialized High School Admissions Test. In 2011 only 12 black students received offers, up from seven the previous year. To help reverse this downward trend, four Stuyvesant alums and teachers will offer intensive tutoring on six Saturdays before the test on Oct. 29 and 30. There will also be a session on test-taking tips for the SHSAT on Sept. 27 (see article update below.)

"We want to increase the number of kids who are taking the test and help them pass," said Renee Eubanks, a 1981 Stuyvesant graduate, now a corporate lawyer.  "My Stuyvesant education was a great opportunity -- it really does open doors. A lot of young folks and some parents don't understand what a great opportunity it is."

In May, members of the Stuyvesant Alumni Diversity Initiative held an open house at Stuvyesant for black and Latino students from high-performing middle schools. Current black Stuvesant students and alumni talked to them about the admissions test and process. Some middle school students said they didn't know about the test or that they didn't want to take it. Others said they wouldn't choose to attend Stuyvesant even if they qualified. More than a few said they didn't want to leave their neighborhoods for high school.

The black alumni are targeting more than a dozen middle schools that have high numbers of high-achieving African-American and Latino students, including Philippa Schuyler Middle School in Bushwick,the Talented and Gifted School for Young Scholars in East Harlem, and a number of charter schools. Unlike the DOE's Specialized High School Institute, this program is not limited to low income students.

In coordination with the Kaplan test prep company, prospective participants will take a practice test on Saturday, Sept. 17. Based on their results, they will be placed in a class with students of like abilities. The group can teach up to 120 students, Eubanks said.  Interested 8th-graders who want to take the practice exam and participate in the boot camp must RSVP by email to

For more information, read Fostering Diversity in Specialized High Schools a Q and A with Renee Eubanks by Times Fort Greene Local contributor Nancy Bruni.

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UPDATE, Sept. 15: Seventh and 8th-graders and their families are invited to a session on test-taking tips for the SHSAT at Stuvyesant High School, hosted by the Black Alumni Diversity Initiative and the Alumni Association's Diversity Committee. The event is on Tuesday, Sept. 27  but you must RSVP by Sept. 21 to Leading the test-taking tip session will be Clayton Harding, head of the test prep company, Bell Curves. Attendees will also get a tour of Stuvesant and meet administrators, faculty, alumni and students.