Karim Abouelnaga believes so strongly that “practice makes perfect” he named the non-profit he created just that.
Abouelnaga, 20, a senior at Cornell University and graduate of Long Island City High School, created an intensive summer education program for elementary school children. The pilot program kicked off last summer in Long Island City, where he is from.
His parents emigrated to the United States from Egypt in the 1980s. Originally, they planned for Karim and his brothers to one day run their family store, Little Egypt.
But during his freshmen year of high school, Abouelnaga’s father was diagnosed with terminal lymphoma. Without life insurance, the family resorted to selling all the store’s assets, as well as their home.
“That was my first realization of what I was going to do for the rest of my life,” said Abouelnaga. “The family business was no longer an option.”
He quickly began to focus on his education. At the end of his sophomore year, Abouelnaga paired up with mentors from the “REACH- Rewarding Achievements” non-profit organization. It was a move that provided guidance in the right direction and added much needed value to his educational experience.
After finishing high school with a 97 average, Abouelnaga went on to spend a semester at Baruch College, where he had a 4.0 GPA. The next semester, he transferred to Cornell University, where he is now a rising senior in the School of Hotel Administration.
“Practice Makes Perfect” was founded in 2011 with a group of his friends at the university, but the foundations were laid at Baruch. An ambitious adviser there made Abouelnaga aware of the United States achievement gap, which costs the country between $310 and $525 billion every year. The gap “refers to the disparity in academic performance between groups of students,” according to Education Week.
This is what inspired Abouelnaga to come up with a plan that could improve education for low-income, inner city families.
After coming across a few ideas, Abouelnaga found it possible to create an intensive summer education program for elementary school children. The LIC pilot program was held in a classroom from Monday through Friday, where underachieving fourth graders were paired with ambitious ninth graders. As a result, children gained four percent in reading skills, six percent in math, and the summer learning loss was eliminated all together. The program also hired college interns to supervise while experiencing inner city teaching.
This year, Abouelnaga planned on expanding the summer program to two new sites in New York City. In order to do so, he was hit with the task of raising triple the money.
On August 5, he competed in the 25th Annual Central Park Triathlon a quarter-mile swim, 12 mile bike ride and three mile run — in order to raise a goal of $10,000.
A total of 171 donors raised $10,450 for his organization. A Trek 2200 bicycle, valued at nearly $2,000, was also donated by Brickwell Cycling and Multisports to support the effort.
He finished second place in the 18-24 age group and ninth overall.
As a result of all the donations, “Practice Makes Perfect” was able to have classes at Long Island City High School, Bedford Stuyvesant Preparatory High School in Brooklyn and Harlem’s Bread and Roses Integrated Arts High School this summer.
College interns, along with the ninth grade mentors, now do community service on Saturday afternoons as part of the organizations new “Serving our Streets” program. They were able to donate 1,000 articles of clothing and more than 500 pounds of food citywide.
“Practice Makes Perfect” was recognized at the 5th Annual Clinton Global Initiative University Conference, which selects the top 16 college commitments worldwide.
Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, who also competed in the triathlon, has also reached out to Abouelnaga in the hopes of expanding “Practice Makes Perfect.”