Bright Futures for First-Generation College Students Just Became Brighter
U.S. Department of Education Awards $2.4M Grant to UHD’s Talent Search Program
By Mark Kramer
A five-year $2.4 million grant recently awarded to the University of Houston-Downtown from the U.S. Department of Education will provide a major boost for future first-generation students seeking to make their college dreams a reality.
Through the federal grant, UHD’s Talent Search program will receive $485,407 annually through 2026 to assist Aldine Independent School District students who would be the first in their families to earn a college degree. This grant would support these students in preparing for higher education and enrolling at a college or university.
The Talent Search program works in partnership with UHD’s University College to help Houston area students graduate from high school and then navigate their paths to college. The objective is to identify and assist middle and high school students in need of support and resources to support their academic journeys.
“This program is aligned with UHD's reputation of increasing the number of youths from disadvantaged backgrounds who complete their postsecondary education,” said Dr. Brian Flores, Director of UHD’s Talent Search Program. “Our goal is to provide students with the necessary tools and knowledge needed to successfully graduate from high school with a rigorous program of study that will enable them to be successful in college.”
According to Flores, UHD Talent Search serves students at two of Aldine ISD’s middle schools and seven high schools. The UHD program is also the sixth largest Talent Search program in Texas.
Flores noted that UHD’s program provides services to enhance academic progress through individual tutoring, mentoring, semester progress checks, and one-on-one counseling.
“It’s important to develop trusting relationships with these students and provide them opportunities to services and cultural awareness that they may not have had equal access to as their peers,” he added. “As we assist them through their college journey, we remind them that attaining their bachelor's degree can nearly double the lifetime wages of a high school graduate and help fill positions for society’s ever-changing workforce needs.”
In addition, the grant also will allow UHD to continue to change the lives of students in the program by providing them free and unique opportunities including:
- Attending approximately four in-state college/university campus visits per year.
- Attending two cultural activities/events in Houston per year.
- Receiving high quality virtual tutoring by state-certified instructors after school hours and on weekends and special services from UHD's University College’s Academic Support Center, Gator Success Center and access to UHD student mentors
- Providing students with counseling and advising services, information on admissions and application processes, as well as scholarships and grants information.
- Providing laptops and/or hotspot services to select students whose families may not have the financial means to afford computers or internet service.
“UHD’s Talent Search program changes lives, and we are humbled to be entrusted with the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the more than 2,000 middle and high school students who will be positively impacted by this program over the next five years,” said Dr. Scott Marzilli, Dean of UHD’s University College. “More importantly, our Talent Search students will gain the confidence and required skillset necessary to not only apply for college, but more successfully complete their college journey.”
Flores noted that its been rewarding to experience the achievements of students in the program take place.
“We have partnered with Aldine ISD for the past 35 years with tremendous support from the superintendents and administration,” he said. “Our success stories include valedictorians, salutatorians, and students who were in the program and graduates, along with many other students whoattended Ivy League schools as well Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Hispanic-Serving Institutions.”
Flores also praised the Talent Search staff and University College leaders for the program’s success.
“I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with an amazing staff and Dean Marzilli, Dean of UHD University College and his committed team,” he said. “Together, we will embrace and assist low-income and first-generation middle and high school students to provide services that will motivate, generate, and equip this population of students with the necessary college readiness skills and educational guidance to enroll in, persist in, and attain a postsecondary degree.”
The Talent Search began nationwide in 1965 as part of President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s War on Poverty. It was the second of eight federal “TRIO” programs authorized by the Higher Education Act to help college students succeed in higher education. It recognizes that students whose parents do not have a college degree have more difficulties navigating the complexity of decisions that college requires for success, bolsters students from low-income families who have not had the academic opportunities that their college peers have had and helps remove barriers preventing students from thriving academically.
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.