Satoia Wright’s dream is to offer quality education to Black and Brown students from underserved communities. This summer, she’s getting there.
Wright, a middle school teacher, has created an in-person, pay-what-you-can algebra course in Spanish for 7th, 8th, 9th graders or any other Philadelphia student who might need it. It is being held four mornings a week, July 26-Aug. 13, at the Friends Select School, the private Center City school where she teaches, to help the Hispanic communities.
This program is the first time a subject course will be taught fully in a foreign language during Friends Select SummerSessions, and it is also the first time any course at the school will be offered as pay-what-you-can.
Wright used to teach in a predominantly Dominican neighborhood in the South Bronx, N.Y., where she and her colleagues realized that the language barrier kept students from mastering math knowledge. It also made communication between parents and teachers on students’ course struggles pretty much impossible.
According to the 2019 U.S. Census, 15.2% of the Philadelphia population is Hispanic or Latino, and 23.2% of the Philly population ages 5 or older from 2015 to 2019 spoke a language other than English at home.
“This was painful for me, to see them fail the course, which means that now they have Algebra One in the 10th grade, as opposed to geometry, and so that just puts them off further and further from their track of life,” said Wright, who graduated from Syracuse University with degrees in Spanish and psychology. She studied in Peru as an undergraduate and later, as a Fulbright scholar, researched the inequities in Peruvian schools and how to approach them.
She thinks it is a “beautiful thing” when students tell her that they aspire to be engineers, architects, or doctors, but then feels “heartbroken” when she sees high school graduates give up on their STEM dreams when they enter college, struggling with basic algebra because they learned it too late.
“Having that access early on helps students to kind of learn the language of math, to kind of develop and foster relationship and respect and love for it,” said Wright, who just completed her first year of teaching at Friends Select. “It gives them more exposure so they can get to the AP Calculus courses and physics courses by the time they step on those college campuses.”
Both Wright and Michael Gary, head of Friends Select School, said the course is being conducted as a pilot program to gather data and help the school develop more courses for communities in Philadelphia. Friends Select hopes to help with transportation costs, materials assistance, and to add course offerings in other languages, like Mandarin.
“I am where I am because I attended one of those special programs like this SummerSessions, and that’s where my thirst for learning was enhanced, and basically that’s why I became an educator,” Gary said. “Our mission is always been to be in the city and of the city.”
The algebra classes are held Monday through Thursday, from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. at Friends Select School (1651 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy). There are open spots until the algebra program ends, on Aug. 13. Households can register their children through the website (https://bit.ly/37a8ttm) or by contacting Satoia Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.