Two weeks before high school senior, Zoe Nutt, was sworn into the Navy, she decided she wanted to go to college instead.
Nutt had been concerned about finances, but through her work with Trio Talent Search program at Montezuma-Cortez High School, she had five college acceptance letters in hand by March.
The Trio Talent Search academic advisers, run a federally funded program across focused on helping low-income and first-generation students go to college, and they have seen success at Montezuma-Cortez High School in recent years.
Last school year, 94 percent of the 17 seniors in the program went to college. The program stands in contrast to the school’s graduation rate, which was about 71 percent.
Jessica Adams, a Trio Talent Search adviser, attributes student success to the time that she is able to spend with each teen. She is able to meet with every senior once a week to plan for college and she reviews grades, entrance essays and financial options.
Although the official description of the program states it focused on students with potential to succeed, Adams said the potential is not always reflected in high school GPA.
“I have students that are, by far, intelligent, successfully at colleges now, that had 2.5 GPAs. But it’s because support systems were not in place for them,” Adams said.
Since students can be recruited as early as seventh grade, the program is set up for the advisers to form relationships with them. Currently, there are 121 students in the program at the Cortez middle school and high school. Advisers meet with students in a group setting until their senior year.
Nutt started the program in middle school but still came close to joining the Navy. She changed her mind after speaking with family and family friends who had regrets about joining the military.
“Zoe was resilient enough to stand up to her petty officer,” Adams said.
Adams addressed Nutts concerns about her finances by creating a spreadsheet show much each school would cost a student and the scholarships and financial aid that will offset that cost. She does the same with every student to so they can make a financially wise decision.
“We tell students all the time it’s your choice, you are not going to disappoint us if you decide college isn’t for you, but if you are deciding college isn’t for you because of finances or because no one in your family supports you, that’s not going to be a good enough answer,” she said.