Getting a boost on the SAT

Shovik Sarkar is helping low-income youths get access to free SAT preparation tutoring and workshops.

Shovik Sarkar is helping low-income youths get access to free SAT preparation tutoring and workshops.

Shovik Sarkar scored a 2,210 on his first attempt at the SAT, placing him among the top 2 percent of those who took the college entrance exam.

But despite the impressive score, including a perfect mark on the math section, Shovik, 17, felt like there was another problem he had to solve: how to level the playing field for students in areas such as City Heights, where families don’t have the same access to pricey test-preparation services as students from more well-to-do communities.

Shovik, who attends the San Dieguito Academy in Encinitas, should know. He has volunteered with the International Rescue Committee’s Youth Ambassador Program, tutoring children from war-torn African and Asian countries. Seeing the demand for home-based tutoring, he created Each One Teach One, an organization giving low-income students – many from City Heights – free test-preparation services.

The organization is funded by grants from foundations such as Price Charities and private donations.

Shovik, a skilled tutor, employs video conferencing with subject-matter experts from around the country to help him in his quest. In early September, about a dozen students whose families had come to City Heights from South Sudan immersed themselves in math problems at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in North Park instead of enjoying a sunny Saturday outside.

Shovik sees making a difficult subject as fun as possible as the core mission of his workshops. He does that by using mathematical puzzles and games, which he describes as being similar to solving an algebra-based Sudoku puzzle.

Workshop participants appreciated the free test preparation.

“It is crazy, because most SAT classes are $200 or more,” said Malba Ali, 16, a City Heights resident who attends E3 Civic High School at the Downtown Central Library. “Basically everything we do here, they are preparing it exactly like in real life.”

Ajak Jok, 17, is a student at Crawford High School who is working on scoring an 1,800 on the SAT to help him accomplish his goal of playing basketball in college.
“The SAT is one of the most important tests you will ever take in your life,” Ajak said. “One test is going to determine your whole life after high school.”

Ajak’s younger brother also attended the workshop.

“The thing I like the most is it’s taught by a person who just recently took the SAT, instead of somebody who took it 10 years ago,” said Michael Jok, 12.

Michael and his sister, Angwai, secured a full scholarship to La Jolla Country Day School after they both achieved a high score on the Independent Schools Entrance Exam. The siblings credit that success to taking several workshops with Shovik during a two-month period before the test.

The children’s father, Joseph Jok, a leader in the Sudanese-American community, said that recruiting his children to take the class was easy after they heard about Shovik’s high SAT score. But he hopes that the workshop does more than help his children on the test.

“Our community in San Diego needs role models,” Jok said. “Children excel and become doctors, engineers, lawyers, who come back and give back to community.”

The next SAT preparation and puzzle workshop is scheduled for Dec. 12. For information, visit