Each year for the past decade, Advantage Testing volunteers its professionals to coach Chinquapin sophomores, juniors, and seniors on college application essays, test preparation, and general academic tutoring. The common thread from all of the tutors is how rewarding it is to work with Chinquapin students.
It’s “very personal” for Jay Resh, Advantage Testing of Houston’s Director. Resh says that when working with Chinquapin students, he feels he’s reconnecting with his parents and grandparents. Jay’s parents were first-generation Americans who saw education as the factor that “made all the difference in the world”. Jay’s own educational experience took him to Princeton University where he met the future founder of Advantage Testing, Arun Alagappan. After nearly a decade of working overseas in the oil and gas industry and then earning a doctorate in physics from Rice University, Jay followed his passion: understanding how people best learn.
Jay first learned about Chinquapin through one of his private students, who had been moved by the performance of Eduardo Belalcazar (‘12), at a speech and debate competition. Eduardo gave an oratory on what it was like to grow up without a dad, its impact on him, and his need to build community — and finding it at Chinquapin. Advantage Testing invested a summer in helping Eduardo successfully prepare for upcoming SATs. Eduardo landed at The University of Texas at Austin, where he earned a B.A. in International Relations and Global Studies. Eduardo was also successful in persuading Jay to provide Advantage Testing’s elite tutoring to all his Chinquapin brothers and sisters.
That first spring visit to Chinquapin’s campus was memorable. Jay recalls that a truck hauling a house had gotten stuck in the swale on the corner of Thompson & Wallisville Roads, blocking his path to the school. Jay and his fellow tutor hoofed it down Wallisville Road and arrived dripping with sweat. What a first impression he thought he’d be making! But the metaphor was not lost on the Chinquapin students who were, of course, also unphased by his hard-working, perseverent appearance.
Jay’s first impression of the students left an indelible mark. They’re “super-nice kids who have a great desire to do well.” That day and every visit since students make the tutors feel welcome and their character shines through.
Jarrod Ford, Advantage Testing’s Coordinator, enthusiastically agrees. He mentioned students’ kindness, holding open doors for him, and their willingness to help and serve are what impress him. The character of the students has stood out most to Jarrod and he fully believes in Chinquapin’s mission.
Jarrod’s face lights up remembering a story about working with Jose Castillo (‘19). Jarrod nurtured Jose’s drive and interest in mechanical engineering, encouraging him to apply to his beloved alma mater, Rice University. They worked to perfect Jose’s essay, focusing on aspects to make it stand out. Jarrod warmly recalls the day Jose shared the news of his Rice acceptance. Jose’s face had “broken in half” because he was so happy, and his smile stretched from one side of his face to the other. Jarrod proudly attended Jose’s graduation like he was a part of his family, and he even got a previously withheld big hug.
The rest, they say, is history. Ten years and hundreds of students later, the partnership is stronger than ever. And the Chinquapin community is forever grateful.