The Educational Talent Search program hosted at Lewis-Clark State College will continue for at least another five years after its grant funding was renewed at more than $1.4 million in July.
ETS is a federally funded TRiO program, focusing on students whose families are on a limited income and whose parents did not graduate with a four-year college degree. The program targets educationally talented students who have the desire and the potential to seek post high school education, which includes two and four year colleges and technical schools. ETS helps students better understand their educational opportunities and options.
The Clearwater Valley ETS program at LCSC serves more than 600 junior high and high schools students in Weippe, Lapwai, Orofino, Kooskia, and Kamiah, according to Traci Birdsell, director of TRiO Programs at LCSC.
“This is a successful program because we take the time to develop relationships with the students,” Birdsell said. “We create a college-going culture. They start to see themselves on a college campus after they graduate from high school.”
Birdsell said statistics following the 2015 school year showed 96 percent of the students participating in the local program either advanced to the next grade level or graduated from high school. And 59 of those students enrolled in college.
That’s important, Birdsell said, because 83 percent of those aged 25 and older do not have a bachelor’s degree in the Clearwater Valley ETS area. Also, 61 percent of the Clearwater Valley ETS participants are eligible for the free and reduced lunch program, well above the Idaho average of 49 percent, Birdsell said.
The Clearwater Valley ETS program covers a variety of subjects to help the students familiarize themselves with all aspects of college life. This includes working with the students on study habits, time management, career exploration, college applications, financial aid opportunities, and college campus visits.
“We help the school counselors,” Birdsell said. “We take them on housing tours so they can see what it’s like living in the dorms. We also have grade checks and talk to them about school work.”
Birdsell said while any student interested in college can apply to be a part of the program, the Clearwater Valley ETS program must follow federal guidelines of having at least two-thirds of the participants be those whose parents did not graduate with a four-year college degree.
“But once they are accepted they are in for good,” Birdsell said. “We have been at most of these schools for 10 years and we have had a lot of success stories. For example, we had a student from Kooskia who went on to college and is now back teaching in Kooskia. It’s fun to watch these students grow.”
The program takes students on field trips to area colleges and universities and exposes them to things they may not otherwise know about. Because of tight school budgets, many of the schools in the Clearwater Valley ETS program do not have the money for such field trips.
“These trips expose the students to all aspects of college life, which is very important,” Birdsell said. “Usually by the time they attend college, they are comfortable with many of the things they will see.”
Although LCSC is the host of the Clearwater Valley ETS program, Birdsell and her staff are forbidden to recruit these students to LCSC exclusively. So the campus tours include the University of Idaho and Washington State University, and students are encouraged to apply elsewhere. Birdsell said recent high school graduates have gone on to Vassar College in New York, several schools in the Pacific Northwest, trade schools and Northwest Lineman College.
“Our students learn about the support systems that are in place that will help them if they move away for college,” Birdsell said. “We want them to be successful.”
Birdsell said the grant is for $284,160 for each of the five years, which is about a $55,000 per year increase from the previous grant. The grant money is used to hire staff, for field trips, and for programs to help the students succeed.
For more information on the program or grant, contact Birdsell at either [email protected] or 208-792-2848.