Tutorial center helps students in need prepare for college

By Prem Calvin Prashad

A nascent local foundation aims to facilitate better pathways to college for local students through awareness and community empowerment for the students who need it most. The Khan Foundation, the brainchild of Dr. Ivan Khan, seeks not only to mentor and inform low-income and female students, but also to cultivate leadership and develop well-rounded individuals who make appealing candidates for top universities.

Khan, along with his parents, run Khan’s Tutorial, a test and college prep institution with locations in the borough. The younger Khan notes that while he saw students succeed academically, many could not gain admission to top universities due to external factors that were out of their control, such as a lack of resources and guidance in local schools that would otherwise advise them on how to present themselves as an appealing candidate.

The foundation held its second event, a financial aid workshop for the local community, Dec. 5. The session spoke to parents and their teenagers separately, with an interactive portion for the students, where they were able to read, likely for the first time, admissions letters from Harvard and Rutgers universities, as well as the included financial aid analysis that now accompanies those offers.

Both sessions offered a comprehensive look at the options for students, regardless of income or legal status that would enable them to attend public and private institutions.

The elder Khan punctuated the adults session with emphatic points about New York’s Tuition Assistance Program and work-study programs, much to the delight of parents. The younger Khan noted that he wanted to de-myth the notion of unaffordable private universities.

“Some private schools are actually more affordable to attend,” he noted, “because of the availability of scholarships within their system.”

The college admissions process is dynamic, so even those who have been through the process in the past decade will find that their knowledge may have gaps.

Sajed Chowdhury, a graduating senior at New York University and a senior director at Khan’s Tutorial, coordinated the student session at the workshop, explaining that “the unfortunate thing is that all these deadlines are their senior year … it’s unfair for student to look for all this information on their own.”

Of the many students who need guidance, Chowdhury noted, “If you don’t make the right choices and find the necessary tools to help you succeed, your grades aren’t going to be enough.”

Undocumented students face some of the largest obstacles in receiving an education, with many fearing that either the application process will expose them or their loved ones to scrutiny or the misconception that they are ineligible for all forms of aid and assistance. As part of the Khan Foundation’s mission, the organization seeks out students who exist in the margins of the educational system, often in schools that fail to provide guidance and assure them of a path to getting a college education.

The organization currently lacks a space of its own, relying on space provided by Khan’s Tutorial and a team of dedicated volunteers, many of whom are alumni of Khan’s Tutorial. One of the project coordinators who led the student section said that as a startup foundation, generating results is critical for the foundation at this stage.

Among the goals of this foundation is to empower young women from the local community to seize educational and leadership opportunities. Indeed, the younger Khan notes that as the father of a newborn baby girl, his greatest hope if for her to grow up with strong young women present in her community.

The children of low-income and immigrant communities face a number of barriers and external factors that prevent them from getting the best information and using opportunities available to them.

Yet, as the project consultant at the Khan Foundation noted, “If you have parents who are really motivated and really want the American Dream for you, they will let you do whatever it takes.”