California State University, Long Beach
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Education Talent Search Program Recieves $3.6 Million From DOE

Published: November 1, 2011

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded two grants totaling more than $3.63 million over the next five years to the Educational Talent Search (ETS) Program at CSULB.

A free, federally funded program housed at CSULB since 1977, ETS targets 18 high schools and six middle schools in the Long Beach/Los Angeles area, and its advisors guide students in their search for higher-education enrollment and career possibilities. College tours, career planning, and scholarship and financial aid resources are among the many things ETS offers for students and parents of the target schools.

“The mission of the Educational Talent Search Program is to service low-income, first-generation students who want to go on to higher education,” said CSULB’s ETS Director Loretta Enriquez-Najera. “That’s any level of higher education after high school, whether that means community college, a four-year public or private school or even a trade school.

Enriquez-Najera noted the campus submitted its grant proposals along with 1,100 other applicants and was among 465 selected for funding. She said the CSULB proposals scored very well, receiving a maximum score of 100 in one instance and a 98 in the other.

Talent Search programs across the country identify and assist individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds that have the potential to succeed in higher education. These programs provide academic, career and financial counseling to participants and encourage them to graduate from high school and continue on to the post-secondary institution of their choice.

“Over the last three years, 91 percent of CSULB’s ETS graduating seniors enrolled in postsecondary education,” noted Howard Wray, executive director of Educational Equity Services, where the ETS unit resides. “That enrollment rate is especially significant considering the target students come from low-income, first-generation families. This underlines how difficult it is to achieve a 90 percent enrollment rate.”

Enriquez-Najera attributes the program’s success to an emphasis on one-on-one work with its students. “The point is to get these students started on the road to higher education even if that means sending them to community colleges today so that they can enroll in a UC campus tomorrow,” she said. “We work closely with our students. We sit there in front of computers and explain how to apply. We review the forms to make sure everything is complete. One reason we try to keep our student cohorts small is to retain our ability to work with them closely.”

More than 1,600 high school students from 14 target schools in the Long Beach, Compton, Los Angeles and South Bay areas will receive advice in high school course selection for college, financial aid counseling and assistance in submitting financial aid documents, post-secondary planning, assistance in submitting college admission applications, and tutorial connections for high school subjects.

Educational Talent Search logo

Other activities for students from ninth through 11th grades include college field trips, career days and college-based workshops. There is even a parents’ evening during which Talent Search officials let parents know what the program is doing with their children.

Enriquez-Najera also said the program hires college students, trains them and places them back at the college centers at participating schools as student advisors, many who were graduates of that high school.

“Since we deal with mostly first-generation college students, they don’t have a parent who can tell them how great college was or how much fun it was or what they need to do to prepare and apply,” Enriquez-Najera added. “We try to give them that perspective.”

Enriquez-Najera, who has been with Talent Search since its beginning, said this new funding will keep the program running through 2016. “Without this funding, we would not be able to place student advisors into these local schools,” she stated. “We have many sites we provide services to and, if we didn’t get this money, this program would shut down. It was due to funding like this that we have been able to build a history of trust with our participating schools.”

The five-year grants give the ETS a future, she believes. “Our goal for that future is to build a strong program at each participating school site,” she added. “That strength is built on our reputation for one-on-one advising. There are campuses where students seem to come out of the woodwork because they hear about the attention our students receive. I want to foster the idea among students that by joining this program, they will receive college assistance tailored to their needs.

“Our primary target is the typical ninth-grader,” she said. “These high school freshmen are often surprised to be approached about college. I want to change that mentality. It’s very important to make the right decisions about courses and grades and to make them as soon as possible. This year, thanks to this funding, we will be able to offer tutorial services.”

This fall, the ETS program begins tracking a selected group of students for six years through college graduation. “Every semester, we will contact certain students to find out how they are doing, if they are still enrolled in postsecondary education and if they intend to re-enroll,” she said. “It won’t be easy, but we will be tracking students for longer than we ever have before.”

–Richard Manly