Intercom Online......August 13, 1998

$1.6 million federal grant
to aid first-generation students

Penn State just got a $1.6 million boost from the U.S. Department of Education to continue its Talent Search program for the next four years.

At Penn State, Talent Search serves about 1,000 students in six western Pennsylvania school districts. Talent Search is a competitive, federally funded program that helps sixth- to 12th-grade students graduate from high school and enroll in some form of post-secondary education or training. At least two-thirds of the participants in a given year are first-generation, college-bound students from low-income families.

Based at University Park, Talent Search draws on Penn State support from its McKeesport, New Kensington, Shenango and Beaver campuses and area school districts, and has on-site counselor/education specialists in the Aliquippa, Clairton, Duquesne, Farrell, New Kensington-Arnold and Sharon school districts. About 125 to 225 students in each school, who have been identified as having the potential to complete post-secondary education or training, are enrolled.

Teresa Tassotti, Talent Search program director, said that since the program began in 1991, 99 percent of the participants have graduated from secondary school and 79 percent have enrolled in post-secondary education. The state and national average for high school students continuing into post-secondary education is around 60 percent.

"The most popular part of the program is taking students to colleges, universities and other institutions in the area so they can imagine what it would be like to be there," said Tassotti. "It's a great motivator, especially for the middle school students, many of whom have never been to a college campus or advanced training school."

Talent Search is one of the six federally funded TRIO programs administered at Penn State. TRIO is the name of a group of programs established by Congress in the mid-1960s to help disadvantaged students.

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