Talent Search program to establish pathway from high school to higher ed

by Matt Jardin  |   

Deanne Woodard, associate vice provost for targeted programs and populations
Deanne Woodard, associate vice provost for targeted programs and populations. (Photo by James Evans / University of Alaska Anchorage)

Pursuing an education can be challenging for anyone — from coursework, affordability and everything in between. Such obstacles can be even more apparent to those in marginalized communities. Awarded to UAA in September 2021, the Talent Search grant is one of eight TRIO offerings from the U.S. Department of Education and will support efforts to bridge that gap. 

Talent Search will offer skill-building workshops, individual and group guidance, tutorial services, career exploration opportunities, leadership development, college entrance and financial literacy advising, and other academic services to 500 participants at three Anchorage schools — West High School, Bartlett High School and Bettye Davis East Anchorage High School. UAA Talent Search personnel will work collaboratively with Anchorage School District (ASD) staff to ensure the success of participants.

“This is a move forward in terms of increasing equity and diversity, not only in secondary education but post-secondary,” said Deanne Woodard, associate vice provost for targeted programs and populations. “To be able to help students who are typically marginalized and underserved and give them the support they need to be successful is critical to our community, and we couldn’t do it without our partnership with ASD.”

A five-year grant, Talent Search will officially launch in January 2022. Woodard and her team will hire staff and recruit students to participate in the program this fall. The grant will pay nearly all costs for staff, equipment and program materials.

UAA’s Talent Search grant is one of 526 awarded to 865 eligible applications — 443 were awarded to pre-existing programs up for renewal, and 83 were awarded to establish new programs.

While considered a new program, this award marks the return of Talent Search to UAA, previously headed under Bruce Schultz, vice chancellor for Student Affairs, and Theresa Lyons, former executive director of Student Outreach and Transition.

“We have a very diverse community that thrives when they have the support they need,” said Woodard. “When [Talent Search] first went away, it was decided that this is a worthy program and we needed to reinvest our efforts and try to get it back.”

To qualify for Talent Search, Woodard and her team had to demonstrate a need in the community for such a program, illustrated by considerable percentages of first-generation students and lower-income students. 

Furthermore, they had to outline how the program would help them meet five key objectives: providing students with a pathway through high school, encouraging students to pursue advanced coursework, ensuring students earn their diploma, enrolling students in a post-secondary education program, and finally, helping students earn their degree.

“The whole suite of TRIO programs is designed for college access and success from the time they get into the program to the time they finish,” said Woodard. “With this grant, we don't stop tracking once they graduate high school. We’re actually tracking them six years beyond. We want to make sure that once they go to college, they actually complete it.”

Talent Search joins two of the eight federally funded TRIO programs already at UAA: Student Support Services and Upward Bound. Two more TRIO programs may lie on the horizon for UAA. Proposals are being drafted for Veterans Upward Bound and the McNair Scholars Program, which works to increase students’ attainment of Ph.D. degrees from underrepresented segments of society.

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