Grant Expands HSU Effort to Get Local Youth to College

Aug 25, 2016

A Humboldt State University program that encourages low-income and first-generation students and students with disabilities to pursue higher education, is set to expand after earning a grant from the United States Department of Education.

Educational Talent Search TRiO, a Humboldt State University auxiliary program that has been promoting higher education in local high schools and middle schools for over 24 years, recently announced it has been awarded a $460,000 annual grant that is expected to renew for five years. The funding not only allows this early college access program to continue in Humboldt County, but expands Talent Search services into Del Norte County schools.

According to Talent Search and Student Academic Services Outreach Program Director Rose Francia, approximately 6,000 local students have received college access services through the program’s history. On average, 70 percent of graduating Talent Search students pursue higher education directly after high school. This program is essential in guiding students to take college prep coursework to qualify for four-year university admissions; in 2016, only 32 percent of graduates in Humboldt County and 17 percent of graduates in Del Norte County completed the necessary coursework.

Talent Search works with a host of schools, agencies, programs, and college departments to strengthen college access along the Northern California Coast, where high rates of poverty and exposure to childhood trauma impede students’ access to college. “It is these consistent on and off-campus partnerships that make the program successful,” Francia says.

The Talent Search Program’s College Access Academic Advisors provide students with academic support and guidance, scholarship and financial aid information, test preparation, college and career exploration, study skills tips, and additional tools for success. Being awarded the Talent Search grant allowed for five new advisors to be hired, three of whom are recent HSU graduates. They are busy establishing partnerships with school sites with the goal of strengthening the local school-to-college pipeline.

Students in grades 6 through 12 who apply and qualify for the program attend four workshops per year geared at their grade level, and also receive advising and tutoring services that become more personalized and intensive as they get older and prepare to transition into post-secondary education. These workshops will reach at least 971 students this year.

Financial aid is a core component of the program, helping students complete financial aid applications and build strong resumes for scholarship applications. Francia says the program shows kids that there is funding for everyone to go to college.

Additionally, the grant budgets for more integration with HSU, including the hiring of 10 current HSU students as College Access Tutors and the initiation of university day camps. The camps are designed to give students early exposure to the local university campus utilizing a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) curriculum. Recent HSU grad and new Talent Search Advisor Jorge Ambriz worked as a camp counselor at this summer's pilot robotics camp, empowering the kids to find answers for themselves as he guided them through the material.

The 2016 Robot Camp was made possible by a partnership between HSU Mathematics and Computer Science Department faculty and the College of Natural Resources Math and Science Teaching Initiative. Four HSU students planning to enter the field of education were hired as camp counselors, giving them valuable experience and providing middle school kids with role models of people who are pursuing their academic and career dreams.

“There’s tremendous enthusiasm, especially when younger students hear from older students and graduates who are doing work they enjoy,” says Francia.

The program encourages students to plan ahead, stay motivated, and look at all of their options, including universities, community colleges, and trade schools, and has seen students start college at Humboldt State University and College of the Redwoods, or head off to Stanford, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, Oregon State, and many other programs. In the end, it’s about providing program participants with a pathway to higher education and rewarding careers.

“It’s all about supporting youth in developing a passion for work they love, providing service that the world needs, and that earns a living,” Francia says.