In front of about 25 juniors and seniors at Coventry High School on a recent Monday, Mauri Artz speed-read through a practice ACT article while simultaneously pointing out key words to look for and throwing reading tips in the mix.

Students shot one another nervous looks after the frenzied review. But within a half an hour, they were flying through practice tests on their own using Artz’s tips.

ACT with First Tee, a test preparation course for students in high school started by the First Tee of Greater Akron, kicked off its second year earlier this month.

The program started last year with 22 kids at Coventry High School, a low-income school district.

Thanks to a recent $10,000 contribution from AT&T’s Aspire Initiative, First Tee was able to expand the program this year to include 50 kids over three sessions, all at no cost to the students. Last school year, the course cost $150 per session for participants.

The First Tee of Akron is part of an international network of educational organizations that teach the game of golf and its values to kids.

Frank Stams, the executive director of the First Tee of Greater Akron, said the organization was looking to expand beyond the game of golf and into educational programming for the winter months.

Stams joined with the Public Tutoring Initiative, a brainchild of Artz, to bring ACT test prep to local kids.

“We wanted to be a year-round organization and have programming that reflected that,” Stams said. “This is an enhancement to who we are.”

The AT&T Aspire Initiative is a $400 million commitment to educational programs across the country. AT&T spokesperson Holly Hollingsworth said an Akron-area employee, Mark Derrig, met Stams and recommended his program for the contribution.

“Through the AT&T Aspire initiative, AT&T helps provide access to education and training people need to get and keep good jobs,” Hollingsworth said. “...With their program, the First Tee is teaching young people to identify and achieve education goals, and this is a good fit with AT&T Aspire.”

Artz, who is a nationally known ACT tutor, and an education consultant that she hired developed the entire curriculum for the ACT with the First Tee program.

The class meets for 90 minutes once a week for five weeks.

Artz teaches the first class in-person with an energy capable of drawing a few chuckles from students. She delivers tips on reading, timing and overall test-taking.

For the following four weeks, she video calls into the classroom while a First Tee life coach proctors the lesson. In between sessions, kids can log into her website, actonlinetutoring.com, and have full access to practice materials free of cost.

Some students walked out of her first session already feeling confident in their test-taking abilities.

“I think I already know my score’s going to improve,” said Alyssa Lorence, 17, of Wadsworth.

Kids can sign up for the classes, but the First Tee also tries to coordinate with school principals and counselors to identify students who would benefit most from the free program.

Stams is working with the Reach Opportunity Center at Summit Lake to implement the next two rounds of classes, which will be in January and April.

Students can start signing up for 2018 classes starting Dec. 1 at http://www.thefirstteeakron.org/.

Theresa Cottom can be reached at 330-996-3216 or tcottom@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @Theresa_Cottom.