Liliana Castro, high school advisor, front, and Hector Navarette, assistant director, both with UCR’s Educational Talent Search, meet with students about applying to colleges on Thursday, October 7, 2021, at Arroyo Valley High School in San Bernardino. (UCR/Stan Lim)
October 25, 2021

$1.6 million grant helps high school students get to college

The federal grant supports UCR’s work in San Bernardino area schools   

Author: Sandra Baltazar Martínez
October 25, 2021

The United States Department of Education awarded UC Riverside a renewed $1.6 million grant over five years to continue work via the Educational Talent Search program in San Bernardino area high schools.

Funding allows the Educational Talent Search program at UCR to work with underprivileged high school students to prepare them for college. This program helps students get into two and four-year colleges and universities. Educational Talent Search is not a program designed to exclusively recruit for UCR. Instead, it creates a pipeline to higher education, said Alicia Velazquez, executive director of Educational and Community Outreach Programs at UCR. 

Hector Navarette, assistant director, with UCR’s Educational Talent Search, goes over grades with senior Jenny Pena, 17,  on Thursday, October 7, 2021, at Arroyo Valley High School in San Bernardino. UC Riverside’s Educational Talent Search, San Bernardino grant was recently renewed for five years for $1,642,065.  (UCR/Stan Lim)
Hector Navarette, assistant director with UCR’s Educational Talent Search, goes over grades with senior Jenny Pena, 17, on Thursday, October 7, 2021, at Arroyo Valley High School in San Bernardino. UC Riverside’s Educational Talent Search, San Bernardino grant was recently renewed for five years for $1,642,065. (UCR/Stan Lim)

“This grant renewal is proof that our work has impact,” said Velazquez, who for 20 years has secured nearly $23.5 million in grants that support San Bernardino and Riverside county schools. 

In her role, Velazquez oversees the Academic Preparation Programs, or APP. APP is composed , of seven programs, including Educational Talent Search, that serve Inland Empire students. APP overall serves 42 schools in 13 school districts in the IE. 

“Students from low-income backgrounds deserve opportunities, and we are here to serve them,” Velazquez said.  

This grant process was competitive, Velazquez said. It required a 100-page proposal filled with data. UCR scored a perfect grade for its application, with bonus points for providing historical impact data, Velazquez said. 

The $1.6 million grant is specifically meant to serve 592 students from Arroyo Valley, Indian Springs, San Bernardino, Pacific, and San Gorgonio high schools, all within the San Bernardino City Unified School District. 

The Educational Talent Search team visits high schools every day. Their day’s calendar is packed with one-on-one meetings with students to review various aspects of their education, including verifying that students are on track to fulfill California State University or University of California course requirements. Among other things, these Educational Talent Search advisors make sure students are staying on top of their grades, provide tutoring when needed, mentoring, and more.  

The program also takes participants on field trips to college campuses and includes summer programs on campus and cultural excursions, such as visits to museums. The majority of program participants are first-generation students.

“The intention is to open their eyes to what is outside of their community,” Velazquez said. “My background is similar to many of the students. The day I got dropped off at UC Irvine was the first time I ever saw a college campus. My team’s job is to change that.” 

Liliana Castro, high school advisor, front, and Hector Navarette, assistant director, both with UCR’s Educational Talent Search, meet with students about applying to colleges on Thursday, October 7, 2021, at Arroyo Valley High School in San Bernardino. UC Riverside’s Educational Talent Search, San Bernardino grant was recently renewed for five years for $1,642,065.
Liliana Castro, high school advisor, front, and Hector Navarette, assistant director, both with UCR’s Educational Talent Search, meet with students about applying to colleges on Thursday, October 7, 2021, at Arroyo Valley High School in San Bernardino. UC Riverside’s Educational Talent Search, San Bernardino grant was recently renewed for five years for $1,642,065. (UCR/Stan Lim)

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