DANVILLE – The East Central Illinois Community Action Agency plans to help returning veterans with this year's Educational Talent Search grant.
U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, announced Monday that the nonprofit organization was awarded the grant, from the U.S. Department of Education, that totals $770,600 over the next four years. This will be the fourth time it has gotten the grant.
"If ever an agency was deserving, this is it," Johnson said in a statement. " According to the Department of Education, this is one of only two community action agencies to receive this award this year. That's really a testament to the work they do."
Educational Talent Search seeks to identify and assist individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. The program provides academic, career and financial counseling and encourages participants to graduate from high school and continue their education.
"As we move along, we make sure that we continue to motivate" those who may not consider higher education, said Odette Hyatt-Watson, the agency's interim Educational Talent Search Project director.
Higher education provides a higher income, she said.
"It moves some of our families out of the barriers that are connected to lack of funds and allows our children to be more competitive in the job market," she said.
Education also builds self-esteem, she said.
"It allows you to obtain something that can never be taken away," Hyatt-Watson said.
With the grant, the agency will be able to serve between 300 and 400 people between 11 and 27 through services such as academic remediation, tutoring, bilingual services, summer and after-school academic activities and post-secondary services at 14 public and private schools throughout Vermilion County.
"In Vermilion County, with pockets of poverty at 45 percent, the third-highest high school dropout rate in Illinois, and juvenile crime on the increase, Educational Talent Search provides a blessing to community students and parents," said Dwight Lucas, chief executive officer the agency, in a statement.
There are income guidelines, and the emphasis is on first-generation college students, said Fred Whitman, assistant director for planning and community services.
For information, call 443-2705.