Powell Scholars strive to ensure academic success for local students

Kelli and Cassidy

Powell Scholars Cassidy Johnson ’21 and Kelli Loritsch ’21 are determined to make an impact locally to create meaningful change

University of the Pacific Powell Scholars Cassidy Johnson ’21 and Kelli Loritsch ’21 are determined to make an impact locally to create meaningful change. Inspired by a brainstorming session with classmates, they came up with the idea for Quest for the Tests, a tutoring service dedicated to educating and preparing Stockton students for standardized testing and ensuring success for students of all backgrounds.

"Being a Powell Scholar is all about learning and giving back," said Johnson. "Our SAT and ACT scores had a big impact on our education and those tests have been proven to exhibit bias, so we wanted to even the playing field a bit by providing free resources for students."

Pacific Powell Scholars are recipients of the university’s premier academic scholarship. These individuals are high achieving students who demonstrate leadership potential, pursue creative endeavors and innovative research, and become game-changers in their communities both locally and globally. The program has initiated several group projects during its time, including Quest for the Tests.

"The Powell Scholars Program has opened many opportunities for me, from giving me resources to work on research projects to granting me the opportunity to work on a community project like Quest for the Tests," explained Loritsch. "I’m grateful for my classmates in the program and my professors for giving me the support and guidance to succeed at Pacific and beyond."

Currently, Quest for the Tests works with Stagg High School in Stockton and has already tutored nearly 100 students. The program has also evolved since its inception and focuses beyond just standardized testing. In collaboration with Pacific education professor and doctoral program lead Laura Hallberg, the program now focuses more on developing personal relationships with students and mentoring.

"Students reach their full potential when they’re treated as a whole person, not a number," said Johnson. "We strive to get to know students, answer their questions genuinely, and encourage them."

Due the COVID-19 pandemic, the program has needed to transition to an online service. Also, due to many universities currently not requiring the SAT and ACT as part of their admissions process, the program has transitioned from focusing on standardized testing to tutoring in overall subjects and helping with college applications and scholarships.

"Some students still wish to take these tests, but many now want tutoring in their AP classes, help with understanding the financial aid process, or writing essays for college admissions," explained Johnson. "Our tutors have been trained to be ready for anything and help however they feel comfortable."

Both Johnson and Loritsch are scheduled to graduate from Pacific this spring, however both hope to have the program continue after they leave. They each are working to train younger Powell Scholars to continue Quest for the Tests and hope to return post-pandemic to see its continued success.

"I hope that we’ve helped reinforce the message to our students that they are beyond good enough to go to college if that’s what they want to do after graduation," said Loritsch. "I also hope that we’ve helped them feel confident approaching the college application process after having talked with our tutors."