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Talent Search grant helps CLC build educational pathways for high school students

by Public Relations and Marketing | Published Oct 05, 2021

College of Lake County (CLC) is devoted to closing opportunity gaps toward higher education in the community. Thanks to the $2.3 million received over five years from the U.S. Department of Education's TRiO Educational Talent Search (ETS) grant, the college can continue to provide access to post-secondary education for low-income and first-generation college students in Lake County high schools.

The grant funding helps to provide access to these students through a variety of academic and personal experiences and activities. Programming includes academic advising, tutoring, ACT/SAT prep, financial aid and FAFSA completion, college visits, career exploration and shadowing, coaching and mentoring. Additionally, freshman transition programming includes study skills, time management and financial literacy.

Waukegan High School Scholars at the Museum of Science and IndustryTwo-thirds of the students in the program served are first-generation college students and may be from low-income households. TRiO ETS serves approximately 1,000 students annually and targets high schools in Zion-Benton, Waukegan, Round Lake and North Chicago. CLC specialists who work with TRiO meet with the students at the high schools to discuss academics and conduct success strategy workshops.

Photo: Waukegan High School TRiO ETS Scholars at the Adler Planetarium for a STEM exploration trip in spring 2019.

The program also supports students at other non-target Lake County high schools. Middle school students benefit from the programming through specific offerings throughout the school year as well as the Summer College, Career and STEM Academy.

“TRiO ETS supports students and families by providing access, support and options,” said Ashley Cullen-Williams, TRiO ETS Grants manager. “Through a process of inquiry, we connect and help the student create a path to success. That makes a difference because we're able to plant seeds, based on students' strengths, and track our growth as they progress from middle school to high school and attend college. We can see the change in their mindset and the fruits of our labor within the community dynamics."

CLC director of TRiO ETS grants Dr. Sharon Sanders-Funnye said, “TRiO ETS is a great resource for youth in Lake County who are seeking college preparation and readiness skills. 96 percent of senior participants graduated from high school and enrolled in a higher educational institution, even during the pandemic. TRiO works!”

The program is designed to provide a sense of belonging, college-going identity, inclusiveness and collaboration across many departments at the college. It connects students to education, careers and community.

Here’s what TRiO ETS graduates have to say:

“TRiO ETS has taught me what true mentoring is,” said Asharia Harris, current CLC sophomore and TRiO ETS alumna. “Through the good and stressful times, TRiO ETS was a consistent resource. Because of it, I have grown academically and professionally. It pushed me to become more aware about myself, goals and future."

“I am beyond grateful and blessed to have participated in the TRiO ETS Program,” said Jocelyn Campos Diaz, a 2021 Round Lake High School graduate who is attending Northern Illinois University on a full-ride scholarship. “I honestly believe that this program is one of the biggest support systems.”

TRiO ETS will focus on STEM programming and opportunities for participants within the next grant cycle.

TRiO works to support students, even through a virtual platform. During the pandemic, students were able to observe an open-heart surgery with the Museum of Science and Industry and chat with Advocate Christ Medical Hospital surgeons.

About College of Lake County

College of Lake County is a comprehensive community college committed to equitable high-quality education, cultural enrichment and partnerships to advance the diverse communities it serves in northeastern Illinois. Offered at three campuses in Grayslake, Vernon Hills and Waukegan or online, college classes are affordable and accessible to help each student achieve academic, career and personal goals. More than 70,000 students graduated with degrees and certificates since the college opened in 1969. College of Lake County is the only higher-education institution ranked among the top 15 best places to work in Illinois by Forbes and is a national leader in many areas, including sustainability and conservation.