Faring well even during a time of federal budget cuts, Virginia Tech’s Talent Search program has earned a five-year funding grant of approximately $1.6 million, renewing its outreach to middle and high school students in Southwest Virginia.

“We’ve received notice that our U.S. Department of Education grant renewal will give us approximately $300,000 each year for five years,” says Tom Wilson, the program’s director. “Our budget request was funded with just a 3 percent cut. We’re relieved and grateful that we’ll be able to serve almost as many students as we did last year.”

Upward Bound and Talent Search at Virginia Tech are federally funded programs designed to assist high school students in making the transition from high school to college. Thousands of students in Southwest Virginia have benefited from the services of the program since 1967. Upward Bound has been at Virginia Tech since that year; Talent Search since 1973. Funding for Talent Search was last renewed in 2007. (Upward Bound’s new grant request occurs in 2012.)

Both Upward Bound and Talent Search target students from families with parents who did not earn four-year degrees or on the basis of financial need. If students show potential for college, they can receive tutoring and other support as early as middle school. Students who participate in the program are much more likely to graduate from college than they would be without the help.

“We would like for parents to know that college is possible for anyone and can be affordable,” Wilson says. “And we work very hard to impress upon the schools that we can provide assistance to students who need extra support when they’re thinking about whether they can go after the dream of a college education.”

This past May, more than two dozen young scholars from the region’s middle and high schools were honored with a banquet on campus. During the new grant cycle, Talent Search will be serving an additional school: Heritage High School in Lynchburg.

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