Purdue Profiles: Jimmie Sanders

Sept. 2, 2014  

Jimmie Sanders

Jimmie Sanders, director of the Educational Talent Search program at Purdue Calumet. (Photo provided) 
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Jimmie Sanders understands the importance of giving back to a program that helps students achieve their educational dreams -- because he does it every day.

Sanders is director of the Educational Talent Search program at Purdue Calumet, and he is one of its alumni. By providing academic and administrative oversight for all of its initiatives and services, he guides the federally funded program in its mission to better the lives of disadvantaged youth by offering comprehensive support in their educational and career-related endeavors.

What are some more details about the Educational Talent Search program?

Calumet's Educational Talent Search program is one of many such programs throughout the country that are funded through the U.S. Department of Education. The programs seek to identify and assist individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds who have the potential to succeed in higher education.

Our program at Calumet primarily works with middle and high school students from the northern, urban core of Lake County. Our participants usually come from the East Chicago, Hammond and Lake Ridge school corporations. In all, we serve about 750 students.

We accept applications from interested students, but we also recruit students from eligible backgrounds. Our participants generally come from low-income households in which neither parent has completed a four-year college degree. Also, our participants have demonstrated a need for our program's services to pursue education beyond high school. Our participants are ages 11-19.

What services does the program offer?

In general, the program provides academic, career and financial counseling to our participants, and it encourages them to graduate from high school, enroll in postsecondary education and complete it. Our goal is to increase the number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds who do these things.

Specifically, the program offers counseling, advice about entry or re-entry to secondary or postsecondary programs, career exploration and aptitude testing, on-site and online tutorial services, information about and exposure to college campuses, and information about financial assistance.

We also help students prepare for college entrance exams and complete admissions and financial aid applications. We provide informational workshops for the families of all participants, and we offer special activities for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students.

Everything we offer to our participants and their families is free.

What are some of the program's results?

We've had a lot of success. For example, the program's activities in 2012-13 resulted in 100 percent of participants persisting in school for the next academic year.

During that same time period, 98 percent of participants also received a regular high school diploma and completed a rigorous program of study in the standard number of years. For 2012-13, 79 percent of participants enrolled in an institution of higher education by fall 2013.

Why do you think the program is important?

What the ETS program does is level the playing field. Generally, only affluent students can afford the services and programs we offer. By offering these things to our participants for free, we make college preparation more equitable and accessible. Our services help ensure that participants are ready for college and beyond by immersing them in a program that promotes a college-going culture.

What was your experience in the program?

I come from similar circumstances to those of my students. I was the first in my family to attend college, and I came from a low-income background from the housing projects in the Miller section of Gary. I participated in the program from seventh to 10th grade, and it provided me with much-needed exposure to college campuses.

I'm very passionate about the program. For me, it was imperative to give back, and it's so rewarding to see students obtain their educational and/or career goals.

I firmly believe that it's vital to obtain a college education. School is cool -- that's my motto for my students.


Writer: Amanda Hamon Kunz, 49-61325, ahamon@purdue.edu

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