Educational Talent Search expanding its reach

Leah Johnson

WKU’s Educational Talent Search program will be expanding to Barren and Simpson counties after receiving a third grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

The Educational Talent Search program is one of five TRiO programs provided at WKU. The federally-funded programs are designed to provide opportunities to low income, first generation students to help them succeed.

The Educational Talent Search specifically serves middle to high school students, tracking them through their college graduation.

Martha Sales, the executive director of WKU TRiO, has been involved with the program since 1997. The TRiO program at WKU reaches schools within a 10 county target area. The targeted area helps Sales determine which counties to expand TRiO to with each new proposal.

“It was an area that still had need, but there were no TRiO services being provided there,” Sales said.

There are three Educational Talent Search programs at WKU provided by three separate grants. Since 1981, the first grant has allowed the WKU Educational Talent Search to work with counties surrounding Warren County. The second grant specifically serves the Bowling Green and Warren County area.

This newly-awarded third grant will serve Barren and Simpson counties and provide service to 500 students within the schools in these areas.

Jennifer McWhorter, assistant director of the WKU Educational Talent Search program, has worked for the Educational Talent Search program for 10 years. She said with each grant they’ve applied for, the number of graduates they’ve seen has either increased or remained constant.

McWhorter also travels to schools within the surrounding counties and works with students on study skills, career research, time management and college applications.

“My personal goal is not really numbers necessarily, it’s great to have a bunch of students enroll in college but you really want them to persist in college,” McWhorter said. “My goal is just to kind of be there as a resource and to know that they can count on me.”

The U.S. Department of Education began the Educational Talent Search program in 1965 as part of the Higher Education Act, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s website. The Educational Talent Search program is one of eight TRiO programs funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

The programs share a common goal, but serve various groups of people. Nation-wide, there are more than 2,900 projects serving more than 840,000 low-income Americans, according to the WKU TRiO Programs website.

Each grant TRiO receives funding from the U.S. Department of Education lasts for five years. Sales, a Trio alum, writes these proposals every four years.

“I was in student support services here at WKU,” Sales said. “I’ve always liked assisting students, providing them with opportunities for success and that’s what TRiO does.”

Sales said her goal with TRiO is to raise awareness for the program to assist more people and get more people involved. She hopes that by word of mouth students can see there are other people just like them out there.

“More people need to know about who we are and what we do,” Sales said.

Reporter Leah Johnson can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected].