CSULB’s Educational Talent Search Program has been selected to receive two awards of $497,929 and $226,600 annually for the next four years from the U.S. Department of Education to continue its educational opportunity outreach efforts with students in local middle schools and high schools.
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.
“The mission of the Educational Talent Search Program is to service low-income, first-generation students who want to go on to higher education,” explained program director Loretta Enriquez-Najera. “That’s any level of higher education after high school, whether it would be going to community college, a four-year public or private school, possibly even a trade school.”
The first CSULB award of $497,929 is earmarked for the campus’ original Talent Search Program, which was established in 1977. Working with 1,950 students annually, the program serves 14 high schools including Bell, Cabrillo, Centennial, Compton, Dominguez, El Rancho, Huntington Park, Long Beach Jordan, Lynwood, Millikan, Pioneer, Long Beach Poly, South Gate and Long Beach Wilson. The program also serves Franklin, Gage and Lynwood middle schools.
The second award of $226,600 will go to the university’s other program, Educational Talent Search South Bay, created in 2002. The South Bay program serves 600 students annually, working with Banning, Carson, Gardena, Narbonne and San Pedro high schools as well as Dana, Fleming and Peary middle schools.
Student activities vary from grade to grade, according to Enriquez-Najera, but by the time the students become high school seniors, they have their most immediate needs met as Educational Talent Search workers prepare them for the next level.
“Starting in the fall, we’re working with 12th graders, and we help them to make sure they take the right college entrance exams,” Enriquez-Najera explained. “The application period begins in October, so we help them with college applications, applying to schools. Then in January and February, we are consumed with financial aid because most of our participants are low-income students. Our goal is to have all the seniors apply for financial aid, and actually, that is one of the mandates of our program.”
Other activities for students from sixth through 11th grades include college field trips, career days and college-based workshops, and cultural field trips to such places as Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Younger students also take part in after-school workshops and programs about the college experience. 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 CSULB students, trains them and places them back at the college centers at participating schools as student advisors. The college students work 20 hours a week at these centers.
“Since we deal with a lot of 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 pointed out. “We try to give them that perspective. So, at the high school level, we get first-year college students who were in our program and we have them come back to the schools and talk about college.”
Enriquez-Najera, who has been with Talent Search since its beginning in 1977 and who earned her bachelor’s degree at CSU Fullerton, said this additional funding will keep both programs running through 2011.
“Without this funding, we would not be able to put our student advisors into these local schools,” she stated. “We have 25 sites that we provide services to and if we didn’t get this money, this program would shut down.”
Enriquez-Najera expressed her thanks to the program staff; the CSULB Foundation, which oversees the funding of the program; and the Division of Student Affairs and its vice president, Doug Robinson, for their continued support of the program. “We try to build continuity and rapport with our students,” she said. “They knew that if they have a question that needs to be answered, they can come to us and get that question answered.”