Coastal Bend College – Alice Campus TRiO Educational Talent Search recently held a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate a grant award of $230,000 for a five-year extension of the federal program.
The ETS program identifies and assists individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds who have the potential to succeed in higher education. The program provides academic, career, and financial counseling to its participants and encourages them to graduate from high school and continue on to and complete their postsecondary education. The program publicizes the availability of financial aid and assists participants with the postsecondary application process. Talent Search also encourages persons who have not completed education programs at the secondary or postsecondary level to enter or reenter and complete postsecondary education. The goal of Talent Search is to increase the number of youth from disadvantaged backgrounds who complete high school and enroll in and complete their higher education.
“We get middle school students to think about their career interests. We get juniors ready for their senior years,” said Josie Schuenemann, TRiO ETS Program Director in Alice.
CBC Educational Talent Search Program in Alice serves seven area schools and 616 students. Participating students are from Alice, Benavides, Falfurrias, Freer, Orange Grove, Premont and San Diego High Schools.
Schuenemann said she was thrilled with the grant award because of the impact it will have on local participants. “Most of our students are first-generation high school graduates who have never even been to a college campus,” said Schuenemann. “In our first year, we had 80 percent of our students enroll in college.
“Last summer, 41 of our students went on campus tours,” Schuenemann said. They visited Coastal Bend College (Beeville), the University of Houston – Victoria, Lone Star College (The Woodlands), and the University of Houston – Downtown. Earlier in the year, students were given the opportunity to visit the University of Texas — Pan American (Edinburg) and the University of Texas at Brownsville. College tours give the participants access to colleges they may be considering and also gives them a glimpse of typical college life.
“We appreciate our taxpayers and those who wrote letters in support of this program,” Schuenemann said. In the last year alone, 120 students were assisted with free tutoring during about 378 sessions. The 30- to 120-minute sessions covered TAKS, SAT, ACT, study skills, and subject-specific topics that are customized to address the needs of each student.
About 80 TRiO ETS participants shadowed business and civic leaders in the area last year. TRiO ETS relies on volunteers from local governments, healthcare facilities and private companies to help students explore their chosen fields. Many of those volunteers attended the ceremony.
TRiO ETS works with area schools. “We have a very strong working relationship with Coastal Bend College,” said Margie Longoria, Alice High School lead counselor. “We don’t wait until our students graduate to get them engaged in college. We don’t even need a school bus! We push the program because the support is tremendous.”
CBC President Dr. Thomas Baynum attributed the re-funding of the programs to the hard work of the Alice and Beeville staff and to the grant-writing skills of Dean of Student Services Velma Elizalde.
“We were told that we’d never get it,” said Dr. Baynum. Given the federal cutbacks and the fact that Coastal Bend College was one of few institutions in the country with multiple TRiO ETS programs (one in Beeville and one in Alice), the college president was reticent about the outcome of the grant application. As it turned out, only CBC was funded for two programs. “This should not have happened! When something like this happens, you just stand back and say, ‘thank you.’”
TRiO ETS will be funding through the 2016 school year. CBC Beeville TRiO ETS program was also funded for another five years at $306,752. The program in Beeville serves 671 participants in 12 schools in Beeville, George West, Karnes City, Kenedy, Mathis, Odem, Pettus, Refugio, Runge, Skidmore, Taft and Three Rivers.