ETS helps students with college dreams

OFFERING SUPPORT: Educational Talent Search staff members are ready to help teens who want to attend college. Top row, left: Erickson Aquino and Kellie Santos. Bottom row, from left: Jaqualine Fathal, Lovelynn Mongami and Diana Cruz. Photo courtesy of Educational Talent Search

How do I pay for college? That is a question for many high school students. The Educational Talent Search can help students with the answer.

A ETS event was held Saturday at the University of Guam. The event’s purpose was to launch the program into action. Students from different schools and grades gathered to learn more about the program.

Some ETS alumni presented on summer trips they went on. Among them was the National Student Leadership Congress, a trip given to selected students to develop leadership and spread awareness to controversial issues like gun control. The trip, held in Washington, D.C., was fully paid by the ETS program.

ETS is federally funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Since 1990, the organization has helped over 15,000 students set their path to college. Its goal is to assist a maximum of 738 students from middle to high school. An academic assistant conducts a school session every other week during lunch. They give presentations that will guide your decisions on finance and college. It also provides academic assistance, workshops and personal assistance on college and financial aid applications. All of its services are free, and it is built on a dedicated staff.

Kyle Dahilig, a UOG freshman who speaks passionately about the environment, has been with the program since his junior year of high school. He first heard about the program from his school counselor and friends who were in it.

In the beginning, he viewed ETS as the “additional step” in his preparation for college. Dahilig said the different services that they offer, specifically the one-on-one advisement, were pretty helpful. Now, he sees ETS as an older sibling he can look up to.

According to the passionate young soul, the most important lesson he learned was “to take as many opportunities given to you.” ETS helped him break out of his shell and become open-minded. He adds that what he learned from the program goes beyond college. They provided him life lessons and helped him discover himself.

“ETS has helped me with my understanding that it is OK to not know … because that’s part of the process.” Overall, Dahilig has found the program to be highly beneficial and has not seen a downside to it.

Erickson Aquino, the current senior academic assistant of the program, was a product of ETS. He works to guide seniors on their college applications and decide on what colleges to apply to based on the student’s preference. The approachable leader has been with the program since he was in middle school. He heard about the program for the first time from his teacher when he was in sixth grade. From there, he knew that it would help him pay for college in the future.

When asked about why he stayed with ETS, he said, “It felt like I was a part of something.” Additionally, he mentioned that it gave him an opportunity to learn more about scholarships and financial aid. It provided him help and information beyond what his school counselor could give.

His advice to others is to “take the time to look into your future” and invest in it by joining ETS.

Marina Babauta, an intelligent and optimistic junior from John F. Kennedy High School, has been in the program for four years. She heard about ETS from her sister who was a former member. The hard working teen joined the program because college was essential to her, and she wanted to be prepared for her future.

“Their workshops have always proved to be useful in anything,” Babauta said. Although the topics are repetitive, it helped reinforce the ideas and lessons from previous workshops. ETS is her support system for college and academics. It provides encouragement in addition to information.

Babauta learned that it’s not too early to start planning and that there is financial aid. Many teens say they can’t go to an off-island college because they cannot afford it. ETS has taught her to seize scholarships and other financial aid opportunities for off-island colleges.

“They always taught to not let financial barriers stop you,” Babauta said.

Students from eighth to 12th grade are eligible for ETS. Two-thirds of their students must be from a low-income family and/or aspiring to be a first-generation college student, meaning their parents did not complete a post-secondary education. One-third can be students from any financial background and do not have to be first generation.

To join the program, complete application forms available at your counselor’s office (for public schools), at the ETS office on the second floor of the UOG Calvo Field House, or on its website.

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