Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ) was recently awarded two $1.2 million, five-year Talent Search grants from the U.S. Department of Education to promote postsecondary education access and equity for low-income, first generation college students.
The first grant is a renewal for FSCJ’s South Campus Talent Search program which has been in operation since 2007 to benefit students at Englewood, Terry Parker and Samuel W. Wolfson high schools, and Alfred I. DuPont, Fort Caroline and Southside middle schools. Each year, the program has served 500 students with the expressed potential to succeed in higher education. From 2013-15, 73 percent of the Talent Search graduates enrolled in a program of postsecondary education.
Karen Zelaya, a 2013 FSCJ graduate with her bachelor’s degree in business administration and participant in the Talent Search program as an Englewood High School student, said, "As the first person in my family to attend college, I didn't have access to anyone with experience who could give me their insights and advice as I applied to college. The Talent Search program provided me with a view from 'inside,' helped me learn what opportunities and resources were available and allowed me to develop valuable skills that simplified the entire process."
The second grant will allow FSCJ to build on the program’s success and multiply its impact for inner city students from Andrew Jackson, William M. Raines, A. Philip Randolph and Jean Ribault high schools. FSCJ’s Downtown Campus will now have the resources to provide support for students in an area of Jacksonville where the poverty rates are highest and educational attainment rates are lowest.
“Students in Jacksonville’s Urban Core are in need of support to help change their circumstances and the trajectory of their future,” said Downtown Campus President Dr. Marie Gnage. “We have seen such tremendous results for students on Jacksonville’s Southside since the program was implemented there, and we are eager to see similar impact for students living in downtown Jacksonville.”
Talent Search’s range of services provides students with a customized and comprehensive menu of options based on their changing and individualized needs. Resources designed to remove barriers to success include tutoring and study skills, student-specific success plans, an online peer-to-peer support network, group workshops for college and career exploration, time management skills, test taking strategies and college entrance exam preparation, financial aid assistance, scholarship identification support, financial literacy for both the students and their families, academic advising, college tours, admission application support and various other social and cultural activities.
The project aims to meet the following objectives:
- Increase the percentage of non-senior participants who complete the current academic year and continue their education at the next grade level.
- Increase the percentage of seniors served who graduate within the standard number of years.
- Increase the percentage of students who graduate within the standard number of years from a rigorous secondary school program of study.
- Increase the percentage of students who enroll in an institution of higher education by the fall semester immediately following high school graduation.
- Increase the percentage of students who complete a postsecondary education program within six years of graduation from high school.
“The Talent Search program will bolster our efforts to increase both academic and school culture measures for students in poverty stricken areas of Jacksonville,” said Assistant Superintendent over the Duval Transformation Region of Duval County Public Schools Iranetta Wright. “I am encouraged by the opportunity and support the program promises to deliver for our community’s future.”