CSUN receives $2.3 million to aid middle and high school students

Ron Rokhy

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CSUN received $2.3 million from the federal government to help low-income, first-generation sixth – twelve graders graduate high school and have an opportunity to attend college.

The funds, which were given through two U.S. Department of Education TRIO grants, will provide assistance to over 1,000 students in 15 middle and high schools throughout the San Fernando Valley.

“Essentially, we show kids college is always an option,” said Niki Dixon, director of CSUN’s Educational Talent Search (ETS) program, which is part of the school’s Student Outreach and Recruitment Services. “We’re there to motivate them to access opportunities and guide them through the process of getting into college.”

University staff members are sent to schools to support and work closely with students who are interested in attending college, but may not have the means to do so.

ETS has influenced students graduating Sun Valley’s Francis Polytechnic high school, said the school’s principle Gerardo Loera.

According to Loera, one in three students go on to four-year universities, and one in two continue in two-year colleges.

“They did this by tutoring and mentoring the students, as well as giving them advice about financial aid and encouraging them to work with counselors,” Loera said.

The program only helps under-performing schools or those that have overworked counselors.

“We generally go to schools that have low test scores or have  high student-to-counselor ratios,” said Dixon. “Our staff members monitor their grades and give them pre-college advisement. We give kids interested in attending college a fair chance of doing so, because they may not always have support at home.”

Students in the program take field trips to nearby college campuses where they meet with faculty and staff to learn about the advantages of attending college.

“Hands down, their favorite part is going on the field trips,” said Dixon. “It shows them they can actually go to college because they see people similar to themselves and think ‘I can totally do this.’”

But limited funding only allows for 100-150 kids from each school to take part in the program.

“Currently, we don’t have the funds to do entire schools,” said Dixon

To qualify, students must be U.S citizens, attend a target school as a sixth-twelve graders, have at least a 2.0 GPA, and show an academic need and a desire to attend college, Dixon said.

In 2010, 98 percent of students in the program graduated high school, and 86 percent went on to enroll in college, Dixon said.

“We don’t just tell them about college,” said Dixon. “We show them exactly how to get in.”

TRIO grants had to be renewed this year to keep the ETS program running because they run out every five years.

“For us to continue our work, we had to reapply this year,” said Dixon. “We were awarded with two out of the three grants we applied for, one for Northeast San Fernando and another for Central San Fernando.”

CSUN is only one of many schools which received grant money. According to Dixon, nearby universities USC, CSU Long Beach, UC San Diego and UC Riverside were also awarded talent search money.