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Cliff Williams / The Outlook Rising Dadeville High School junior Adam Hatchett, left, takes the blood pressure of classmate and rising senior Jordan Ford during a camp at Central Alabama Community College. The camp was part of the Talent Search program at CACC.

Central Alabama Community College was awarded a U.S. Department of Education Talent Search grant to help low-income, potential first generation college students gain access to higher education.

The $388,881 grant will allow qualified 9th-12th grade students from Winterboro, BB Comer, Sylacauga, Lincoln, Central Coosa County, Childersburg, Talladega County Central, Horseshoe Bend, Reeltown, Benjamin Russell, Dadeville and Central of Clay County access to the Talent Search program at CACC. It is a program CACC has been participating in for more than 20 years to help students graduate from high school and enroll in college.

At least two-thirds of the students in each local Talent Search program are from low-income families whose parents do not have a college education. Talent Search provides these students with counseling, as well as information about college admissions requirements, scholarships and various student financial aid programs. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 80% of Talent Search participants enroll in postsecondary institutions immediately following high school graduation. In FY20, more than 309,000 students are enrolled in 473 Talent Search TRIO projects in the U.S.

“Our Talent Search program has long been a staple of our college,” CACC president Jeff Lynn said. “Our mission is to provide the best higher education opportunity possible to all high school students in our service area regardless of their economic situation. We are here to assist our high schools in helping their students graduate and then transition smoothly to CACC to begin their college experience.”

Many Talent Search alumni have gone on to achieve great success. Among them are former U.S. Congressman Henry Bonilla from Texas and former Oklahoma State Senator and State Representative Kenneth Corn, one of the state’s youngest in history.

Talent Search began in 1965 as part of President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s War on Poverty. It was the second of eight federal “TRIO” programs authorized by the Higher Education Act to help college students succeed in higher education. It recognizes that students whose parents do not have a college degree have more difficulties navigating the complexity of decisions that college requires for success, bolsters students from low-income families who have not had the academic opportunities that their college peers have had, and helps remove obstacles preventing students from thriving academically.

Dr. Shandra Williams is the Talent Search project director for CACC.

“We are partnered with 12 outstanding schools that share our vision and goals to improve the college readiness and success of underrepresented youth,” Williams said. “The services we provide are tailored for the needs of each school with a common interest in supporting the students.”

Maureen Hoyler is president of the non-profit Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) in Washington, D.C. COE is dedicated to furthering the expansion of college opportunities for low-income, first-generation students, and students with disabilities nationwide.

“As systemic inequality and financial hardship discourage students from succeeding in college, TRIO programs like Talent Search take on new importance because they continue to help students who are low-income and first-generation to earn college degrees,” Hoyler said.

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