Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — Vidalia High School teacher Patricia West, left, helps Natchez High School junior Jerneisia McGee with ACT questions through a tutoring program offered every Wednesday at Zion Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — Vidalia High School teacher Patricia West, left, helps Natchez High School junior Jerneisia McGee with ACT questions through a tutoring program offered every Wednesday at Zion Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Everyday Hero: Volunteer helping zap ACT scores for local students

Published 12:10am Friday, February 21, 2014

NATCHEZ — For the last six years, Patricia West has helped students who want to improve their ACT scores get zapped.

West is the director of Zion’s Academic Program, an educational ministry provided by Zion Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church geared at improving students’ ACT, MSAT and SAT scores. She also volunteers at Harvest Baptist Church in Ferriday on Saturdays in a similar program.

“More students than we would like to see are having trouble getting the scores they need, and our goal is to address that,” West said.

Beyond raising base scores, West said the ZAP helps seniors preparing for college receive scholarships.

And the numbers don’t lie. Since the program started, 100 percent of the students who fully participated passed their state tests or raised their scores on other tests, West said.

That’s done in part by teaching students effective testing strategies while tutoring them in the areas they need to improve.

Jerneisia McGee has taken the ACT and has an 18, but she wants it to be better. When she heard about the ZAP program, she signed up. West has helped her, she said, by explaining concepts and showing McGee how to identify those concepts on the test.

“She has really helped me understand the English and reading portion of the ACT,” McGee said. “It is like taking the ACT but having someone there to explain it.”

And West should have plenty of experience explaining the concepts. She has been a teacher for 41 years, teaching at Vidalia High School after retiring from the Natchez Adams-County School District.

Spending her personal time doing what she does during her day job isn’t something West will complain about, however.

“It is a ministry for me, and really, teaching is a ministry for me,” she said. “It is something I love to do, and I am committed to doing this. I am here every Wednesday, regardless if someone shows up. It is just my Christian vocation as far as I am concerned.”

ZAP,  a non-profit organization, awards three book scholarships to outstanding students in the community each year from donations to the program.

While West teaches English for the program, other tutors help out in other areas as well, and the organization is overseen by a board composed of Zion Chapel’s pastor, the Rev. Birdon Mitchell, Jo Lillian Jackson, Clemetine Youngblood, Lavera Allen, Vounzell Murphy and Tukiyia Stephens.

Those interested in the ZAP program can contact West at 601-444-7270.

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