Cal Lutheran receives $1.4M federal grant

Program sets Oxnard middle schoolers on college path

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At the Talent Search summer STEM Academy, Oxnard College faculty make the subjects accessible and engaging for seventh and eighth graders. 

(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Aug. 18, 2021) The U.S. Department of Education has awarded California Lutheran University a five-year $1.39 million grant to help lower the high school dropout rate in South Oxnard and increase the number of students who enter and graduate from college.

The Cal Lutheran TRIO Talent Search Program funded by the grant started in 2016 and each year serves 500 middle and high school students whose parents are not college graduates. All of the seniors in the program during the 2019-2020 year graduated from high school, and 79% enrolled in college.

Students receive individualized academic, financial, career and personal counseling, and they and their parents attend workshops throughout the year. Talent Search staff members assist students as they transition from junior high to high school and from high school to college. They also provide opportunities for the students to get a jumpstart on college — taking Oxnard College courses as high schoolers, visiting campuses, preparing for entrance exams and applying for admission and financial aid.

The students who started the program as seventh graders during its launch are now entering their senior year of high school. They just completed the program’s weeklong Summer Residential Academy focused on essay writing, test preparation, financial literacy, stress management, leadership and navigating a college campus.  

At the five partner middle schools, Talent Search began as an after-school program but transitioned to being integrated into the school day at all but one of the campuses to meet the needs of students who serve as caregivers or have other after-school obligations. The program now has its own classroom on those campuses. 

Since 2016, the number of students attending the program’s summer academies before they enter seventh, eighth and ninth grade has doubled to 60 and the length expanded from one to three weeks. At the STEM Academy, Oxnard College faculty make the subjects accessible and engaging for seventh and eighth graders. The Bridge Academy for incoming high schoolers, which is also organized in collaboration with Oxnard College, focuses on math, English and sociology.

Talent Search serves low-income students in South Oxnard who have the potential to succeed in higher education but would be in the first generation of their families to attend. Efforts are made to recruit foster and homeless youths for the program. 

Cal Lutheran targeted South Oxnard because of the area’s high poverty, student-to-counselor ratios and dropout rates, and its low standardized test scores, rates of participation in rigorous courses, and numbers of college graduates.