Rutgers-Newark Awarded $2.3 Million To Help Middle School, HS Students Graduate, Go To College

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Will Support Schools in Orange, East Orange and Irvington

Thanks to federal funding, Rutgers University, Newark, is launching two identical but separate academic support and enrichment programs aimed at helping underserved students to succeed in high school and go on to college.

“The Academic Foundations Center (AFC) on the Rutgers Newark campus is pleased to have been awarded two Talent Search grants by the U.S. Department of Education.  The first program, Talent Search East, will serve 500 students in grades 6 – 12 within the East Orange school district.  The second grant, Talent Search, will serve   an additional 500 students in grades 6 – 12 from the districts of Orange and Irvington,” announced Deborah Walker McCall, associate dean of academic affairs, Academic Foundations Center and director of the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) Program.  The five-year grants total $2.3 million each.

Talent Search will “build upon the Center’s mission of providing services to low-income, first-generation potential college students by supporting their academic success, retention and graduation from high school, and enrollment into college,” explains McCall. 

Talent Search counselors who will be working with high school students in the programs are (l-r) Timothy Brown, Yanett Bagce, Victoria Tyson and Kevin Clay.

“Our dynamic team of professionals, working closely with the talented students, administrators, teachers, and guidance staff from our target schools, will help ensure the overwhelming majority of the students we serve graduate and go on to postsecondary education.” 

The Center has begun enrolling a total of 1,000 middle-school and high school students who have the “potential to succeed in higher education,” according to program directors Miriam Montalvo and Jakyrra S. Tyson of the Rutgers AFC.  Montalvo will serve as interim director of Talent Search, serving the Irvington and Orange school districts, and Tyson will direct Talent Search East for the East Orange District.

 Beginning in January, the Talent Search programs will work with students at the 13 schools, providing workshops in such areas as critical thinking and writing, study skills, test preparation, time management and SAT preparation.  Activities will also include educational field trips and Saturday enrichment programs at Rutgers-Newark and workshops specifically for parents and guardians of the program participants.  The workshops, offered by program counselors, will explain the college application process and available financial aid resources.

School officials from the three districts are enthusiastic about Talent Search.  “The Talent Search Program East will encourage our students to seek a post-secondary education by providing them with exposure to college campuses, mentorship programs, and helping them to prepare for college entrance exams,” explains Dr. Gloria C. Scott, superintendent of schools, East Orange School District.  “We are excited to be a partner with the very prestigious program.”

“The grant and program directly correlates with the Orange Public Schools’ goal to provide our students with early exposure to post secondary opportunities and college preparedness. As an urban district, we often find that students wait until late in their junior year or senior year to start preparing for college.  But we know that college preparedness, in some cases, starts at infancy,” states Ronald C. Lee, superintendent, Orange Public Schools.

“The Irvington School District is proud to partner with the Rutgers University Talent Search Program. I am excited about the opportunity for our secondary students to participate in a program that will provide academic, career, and financial counseling for post-secondary education,” notes Dr. Ethel Hasty, Irvington’s Superintendent of Schools.

To apply for the program, students must be potential first-generation college students and meet academic and other standards.

Adults up to age 27 can apply, creating opportunities for high school drop-outs to return to school, graduate and go to college, according to AFC’s Montalvo and Tyson. 

The Talent Search programs are Rutgers-Newark’s largest outreach programs to East Orange, Orange and Irvington, and the campus could indirectly benefit, enrollment-wise, if any of the participating students opt to attend Rutgers-Newark as a result of their exposure to AFC and to the campus itself, note Tyson and Montalvo.  


East Orange Campus High (Grades 9-12)

East Orange STEM Academy High School (Grades 9-12)

John L. Costley Middle School (Grades 6-8)

Patrick F. Healy Middle School (Grades 6-8)

Sojourner Truth Middle School (Grades 6-8)


Irvington High School (Grades 9-12)

Union Avenue Middle School (Grades 6-8)

University Middle School (Grades 6-8)

Orange High School (Grades 9-12)

Orange Preparatory Academy (Grades 8-9)

Cleveland Street Middle School (Grades 6-7)

Lincoln Avenue Middle School (Grades 6-7)

Park Avenue Middle School (Grades 6-7)


  •  Be between the ages of 11-27 and have completed the fifth grade 
  • Have a minimum 2.5 GPA or be in good academic standing                     
  • Be a potential first-generation college student, that is, no parent(s) or guardian(s) has a four-year college degree from a U.S. college or university
  • Attend one of the target schools 
  • Be highly recommended by a teacher and/or school administrator                     
  • Have full support and participation of parent(s)/guardian(s)
  • Participate in all required programs and activities
  • Agree to submit a completed application and meet the financial guidelin
  • Agree to submit all requested information and documents up to six years after   high school graduation