In these dire economic times, when the costs of college can prevent a first-generation, low-income college student from reaching his or her dream, there is a program at PCC that is making a difference.
The federally funded TRIO/Educational Talent Search program, based at PCC’s Rock Creek Campus, helps middle and high school students overcome class, social and cultural barriers by giving them the confidence to enroll at a college. It targets the children of parents who have never been to college and may not have the tools necessary to guide their children on issues relating to higher education. Many in the program are Latino, an underrepresented group in local colleges and universities despite being the fastest growing minority in the state.
"We show them what they need to know to get prepared for college," said Sylvia Barajas-Everson, Talent Search community resource specialist. "The goal is to develop a support network for students in the high school and middle school years to seek higher education. Many don’t have a parent at home who can do that. They don’t know how to access the services."
One of the students is Forest Grove High School senior Karina Ramirez. Thanks to Talent Search, Ramirez earned a full scholarship to George Fox University in Newberg through the Act 6 Leadership and Scholarship Initiative. The initiative recruits promising urban students and connects them to member Northwest universities. She plans to start in the fall and wants to become a doctor to help disadvantaged children.
"Karina is very committed, goal-oriented and ambitious," said Barajas-Everson, whose Talent Search program serves 80 high school students and about 50 middle school students from around Washington County.
Ramirez recently was named a semifinalist for a $2,000 scholarship from Kaiser Permanente. Her success, she said, can be traced back to joining Talent Search in the seventh grade.
"I don’t think I would have been able to succeed in high school without Talent Search," said Ramirez, a track and field athlete at Forest Grove. "It has made me more aware and opened minded of what’s out there.
"The (Talent Search staff) told me I needed to attend college and gave me the confidence to actually do it," she added. "It really opened my eyes. By going to different colleges, I was able to see my different options I could choose from. I’ve toured so many campuses that I could give the tours myself. Also, being able to talk to Sylvia about my plans was a great help. I’m so grateful to have met a compassionate person like her. She inspires me to succeed in school."
Most of TRIO’s high school seniors move on to PCC after graduation from the program – established at the college in 2003 – and earn scholarships. And some of the students like Ramirez attend PCC through the Early College Program and the Oregon Leadership Institute. Many are like Ramirez, who is the first in her family to go to college – her mom was the first in the family to finish high school and her father dropped out of the equivalent of middle school in Michoac