MVHS grad runs SAT program for students in need

Courtesy of MVLA Community Scholars
Mountain View High School graduate Viet Nguyen, back row, left, offered a free SAT prep course over the summer for students.

Two Mountain View High School graduates piloted a free SAT preparation course, ASPIRE, over the summer break.

Viet Nguyen and Olivia Hawkins developed the course, which supported eight students as they prepared for their fall SAT exams, scheduled Nov. 8 and Dec. 6.

“I thought back to where I struggled most in high school,” Nguyen said. “I self-studied for standardized tests because test prep was expensive.”

Combining his interest in education with his college adviser’s admonishment to “learn by doing,” Nguyen devised a plan to help others.

Nguyen currently attends Brown University with support from MVLA Community Scholars, a Los Altos Community Foundation program.

Nguyen met with Superintendent Barry Groves to present his idea for a free test prep program and sought the $1,000 needed for materials.

“I thought, ‘Free tutoring for kids? Getting them ready for college? Absolutely,’” Groves said.

Last spring Nguyen recruited volunteer tutors – college students who earned high scores on the SAT or ACT – and students who needed an academic boost, including members of Mountain View High’s Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) class for first-generation college-bound students.

“Students had a preconception of what an SAT class was. We wanted to challenge that and create a nonintimidating, community-based environment,” said Nguyen, who added that he started each class with food and upbeat music.

“Students sometimes lost sight of their purpose,” he said. “I wanted to remind them why they needed a college education so that they would be even more motivated.”

Nguyen had each student shadow a local professional in his or her area of interest, including psychology, social work and medicine. The exercise seemed to work, he said.

Next year, Nguyen plans to expand the program. He hopes to help 30 students from both Mountain View and Los Altos High schools’ AVID classes. He also foresees switching focus to the ACT rather than the SAT.

Nguyen said he is now “99 percent sure” he wants to go into teaching as a profession, and emphasized that while the program was his idea, “it was the tutors who made it possible.”

Groves said he is proud that Nguyen wants to give back and endorsed expanding the program.

For more information on MVLA Community Scholars, visit

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