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$3.6M Grant Helps Valley Students Realize Educational Dreams

October 5, 2016

San Joaquin Valley high school students will benefit from three federal Talent Search grants. Three grants totaling more than $3.6 million from the U.S. Department of Education will help UC Merced’s Center for Educational Partnerships (CEP) continue its Talent Search program, which helps high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds pursue postsecondary education.

“We are honored to receive additional grant funding, evidence of the great work being done to provide crucial resources and opportunities for San Joaquin Valley high school students,” Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Charles Nies said. “These new grants will enable us to expand our existing support and increase the number of students who are college ready and aware of the greatest number of post-secondary options available to them, both academically and financially.”

The five-year grants will support academic, college preparation and financial counseling for approximately 1,500 high school students from six area high schools: Fresno, Roosevelt, Corcoran, Farmersville, Le Grand and Delhi.

Through the Talent Search program, students learn about financial aid opportunities and are walked through the college application process. Students’ families will also benefit from the Talent Search program, as they will be included in many workshops.

Each program participant must meet federally outlined eligibility guidelines, which include being a citizen or national of the U. S., being a permanent resident of the U. S., and being considered low-income and a potential first-generation college student (neither parent completed a bachelor’s degree).

Approximately 2,100 high school students have benefited from the initial grants CEP received from the Department of Education in 2006 and 2011.

Ana Gonzalez Pena is one such student who graduated Strathmore High School in 2009.

“As a first-generation, low-income student, I never dreamed that I would be able to attend and afford college,” she said. “Talent Search guided me throughout my senior year and exposed me to college campuses I didn’t know existed.”

Gonzalez Pena tapped into the available Talent Search funded resources and was accepted at UC Merced, graduating in 2013 with a degree in psychology. She earned a master’s in counseling from California State University, Bakersfield, and now works for the Center for Educational Partnerships under the Talent Search grant as an academic preparation specialist serving Corcoran, Strathmore and Farmersville.

“I had such a good experience with this program that I decided that I wanted a career in education,” Gonzalez Pena said. “I believe this program is very impactful for students.”