HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Funding for a pair of talent search programs at Marshall University has been extended for the next five years, and at least one graduate of the program couldn’t be happier.
As a high school student in rural Mason County, Tyler Sharp said the program was invaluable to him.
“I’d have been lost without the help they freely and happily provided,” he said.
Sharp is a graduate of the Heart of Appalachia Talent Search Program and now works as a counselor in the Office of Admissions at Marshall. The $284,000 in new funding for the HATS program will serve 600 students in Mason and Wayne County middle and high schools.
“We look forward to implementing new services and further engaging students in the Marshall community,” said Angela Holley, director of the HATS program. The programs are funded by the U.S. Department of Education under the umbrella of Federal Trio programs.
The Empowering Appalachia Talent Search program serving Cabell County has received $260,000 in additional funding to serve 542 students. Heather Warren is director of that program.
The two talent search programs identify and assist students who have the potential to succeed in higher education. Particular emphasis is focused on students who are the first in their family to go to college and/or who may come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The programs provide academic, career and financial aid counseling to participants, and encourage them to graduate from high school and continue on to college. The programs publicize the availability of financial aid and assist students with the college application process.
“Nobody in my family had ever been to college before me,” Sharp said. “I was the first in my entire family, immediate and extended, to go to and graduate from college. The HATS program, its counselors, and Angela Holley in particular, all stepped in and helped guide me through all the intricacies of getting prepared for college.
“They helped with everything from study skills and other tips for success to prepare us academically, as well as guiding us through the process of obtaining financial aid, applying for scholarships, submitting applications, and seeing us off to college. My parents would have loved to have helped me through all this, but they were just as unfamiliar with the complexities of preparing for college as I was. HATS stepped in and filled the void.”
Sharp said one of the highlights of his high school career was a HATS bus trip to Nashville, Tenn.
“I made new friends and got to play on the same piano that Elvis Presley played on many of his records because of that trip,” Sharp said. “I owe a lot of gratitude toward Angela Holley and the HATS staff. I’d absolutely recommend participation in the HATS program.”
Sharp is just one of many of the programs’ successful graduates. Cody Call works in Marshall’s Student Financial Assistance office as a graduate student and Summer Stover works as an academic advisor for the Buck Harless Student Athlete Program. Dustin Stover, a former HATS student and Summer’s brother, is now an equipment manager for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.