By: Carol Beck-Round | Category: Education | Issue: September 2015
Skiatook High School students Sierra Shannon and Jaci Mashburn build a robot during a Talent Search camp at Rogers State University. The robotics lab is the result of a grant through AT&T Aspire. (Photo courtesy of RSU Talent Search.)
Rogers State University is helping increase the number of Oklahoma youth who graduate high school and enroll in and complete postsecondary education through a program that identifies and assists middle and high school students from at-risk backgrounds who have the potential to succeed in higher education.
Talent Search is federally funded through the U. S. Department of Education, offering academic, career and financial aid counseling to its participants. It also helps students who have dropped out of high school reenter the educational system and complete their education.
RSU Talent Search Director Kevin Abbott said the program helps students navigate their options. Through the program, Abbott helps students become aware of the higher education opportunities that are available.
“We’re working with students who, according to statistics, may not go to college,” Abbott said. “We want to broaden their horizons with as many new educational and career experiences as possible to get them excited about college.”
Talent Search students from Tulsa, Skiatook and Chelsea middle schools visit the Conservation Education Reserve at Rogers State University in Claremore. Talent Search introduces students to a variety of educational and career opportunities, including biology and environmental conservation. (Photo courtesy of RSU Talent Search.)
RSU’s Talent Search program serves 14 schools in Chelsea, Claremore, Foyil, Skiatook and Tulsa. Over 70 percent of Talent Search students enroll in college or other postsecondary education program.
“One of the strengths of RSU’s program is the relationships the counselors are able to build with students. We’re often the first people they call if they have a question about college,” Abbott said. “It gives us a unique ability to serve them.”
Academic Counselor Kelly Holmes believes those strong relationships allow counselors to prepare students for college from an early age. Holmes said she enjoys helping students discover educational options, take campus tours and explore career opportunities. “We work with students as early as sixth grade to get them excited about the possibilities of what they can do,” Holmes said. “It’s exciting to see these students begin looking forward to their future.”
The program’s success comes at a time when higher education is at the forefront of Oklahoma’s needed areas of improvement. In her 2015 State of the State address, Governor Mary Fallin stated that there is a significant difference between the needs of employers for skilled talent and the skills possessed by the available workforce, known as a skills gap. “If we don’t address the skills gap, those jobs will go elsewhere,” Fallin said in her address.
RSU President Dr. Larry Rice said that education plays a vital role in helping individuals get jobs, which in turn strengthens the state’s economy. “The goals for the Talent Search program align with RSU’s goal of increasing the number of Oklahomans who hold a college degree,” Dr. Rice said. “This is crucial for the economic vitality of northeastern Oklahoma, and I’m honored that RSU is playing a leading role in opening doors for students from at-risk backgrounds.”
Academic Counselor Jayne McLoughlin said it feels rewarding when students complete the Talent Search program and enroll in postsecondary education. She said enrollment is key, but graduation is the program’s final goal. “Ultimately, Talent Search is about breaking the poverty cycle,” McLoughlin said. “It’s about giving our students a better life.”
After 30 years in public school education, Carol Round retired and moved from Grand Lake to Claremore, Oklahoma in 2005, where she writes a weekly faith-based column which runs in 14 Oklahoma newspapers as well as several national and international publications. Three volumes of her columns have been compiled into collections: A Matter of Faith, Faith Matters and by FAITH alone. She has also written Journaling with Jesus: How to Draw Closer to God and a companion workbook, The 40-Day Challenge. This past year she has written three children’s books, a series called Nana’s 3 Jars, to teach children about the value of giving, saving and spending money. All of Carol’s books are available through Amazon. In addition to writing her weekly column, authoring books and speaking to women’s groups, she writes for Value News. She also blogs regularly at www.carolaround.com. When she is not writing or speaking, she loves spending time with her three grandchildren, working in her flowerbeds, shooting photos, volunteering at her church or going on mission trips overseas, and hiking. She is also an avid reader and loves working crosswords and trying to solve Sudoku puzzles.
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