Earlier this year, two Napa High School seniors, Yoselyn Cervantes and Alberto Mendoza, were announced as Gates Millennium Scholars — winners of a prestigious award funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The award will completely cover Cervantes’ and Mendoza’s educational expenses from undergraduate through doctoral programs.
But now, a middle and high school academic program that helped both of these students achieve academically will lose more than 5 percent in funding, due to automatic spending cuts from the federal government.
The Educational Talent Search program supports select students in grades 6 through 12 at certain schools in the Napa Valley Unified School District. The goal of the program is to assist disadvantaged students in graduating from high school and making the transition into college.
The program provides free tutoring, college field trips, scholarship assistance, as well as various workshops to help with study skills and career planning. ETS students also receive registration assistance and fee waivers for required college admissions tests, such as the SAT and ACT.
The local program is federally funded in 2013-14 at $290,709 — a 5.23 percent decrease from the year before ($306,752), according to Napa Valley College, which operates the pre-college program. Due to the funding decrease, Educational Talent Search will be reducing the number of students served from 668 to 633.
“I was hoping we would not have to incur this cut,” program director Ramon Salceda said.
The ETS program, which is funded by a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Education, is a nationwide program that helps students who are low-income and would be the first in their families to graduate from college.
Students enrolled in the program must meet certain requirements, including maintaining a 2.5 GPA or higher. High school students must also pass the California High School Exit Exams, enroll in college preparatory classes, take the required college admissions tests, and apply for financial aid.
In Napa, the program is offered at Harvest, Redwood and Silverado middle schools, as well as at Napa and Vintage high schools.
Due to the federal funding cuts, ETS will serve 35 fewer students in the 2013-14 school year. Students who are already enrolled in the program will remain, but ETS administrators will not recruit as many 6th graders into the program as they normally do each year, Salceda said.
The Educational Talent Search program has existed in Napa since 1991, said Salceda, who is also an ETS alumni.
Other local ETS graduates have gone on to serve in a variety of careers — from business to education. Several faculty members at Napa Valley College are ETS alumni, as are several administrators and teachers in the Napa Valley Unified School District.
Two of the program’s most recent graduates — Cervantes and Mendoza — will be starting college this fall. Cervantes will attend UC Santa Barbara. Mendoza, who may pursue engineering, will attend UC Davis.
Salceda said he is hopeful that the ETS program’s 2012-13 funding levels will be restored in the 2014-15 school year.
“It’s a wonderful program that has provided Napa Valley with many leaders,” Salceda said.