Receiving its two largest federal grants ever, Santa Monica College (SMC) has been awarded “Title V” grants totaling $6.2 million over five years that will be used to help first-time college students succeed and to help train teachers in the face of a national shortage.

“These grants are known as the behemoth of grants ñ the largest amount of money you can get for community colleges,” said Marvin Martinez, SMC associate vice president of planning and development. “We’ve been working hard to get these grants.

“It’s a great accomplishment for the college.”

The money — from the United States Department of Education — comes in the form of two awards: an individual grant to help first-time SMC students succeed in college, and a cooperative agreement grant with El Camino College to help future teachers complete their lower-division coursework.

The SMC programs developed from the grants are expected to have an impact on more than 1,000 students, college officials said.

“Title V” grants are reserved for institutions that qualify as Hispanic Serving Institutions, with more than 25 percent of Hispanic enrollment. SMC’s Hispanic enrollment is 28 percent.

For the individual grant, the college receives $550,000 this year and up to $2.75 million over the next four years.

Individual grant funds will be used to help at-risk students stay on track with their coursework and degree requirements through counseling and an early alert program that allows the college to find and help students having difficulties.

The college also has plans for bridge programs to introduce high school students to college courses and SMC campus life.

The teacher training grant, called “Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers Today,” totals $3.4 million over five years.

SMC will receive approximately $1.36 million in its agreement with El Camino College in Torrance.

“There is a serious shortage of well-trained teachers, especially those who can teach our growing population of Spanish-speaking students,” said SMC president Piedad Robertson.

“This grant will help ensure that our future teachers acquire the skills and understanding to work with ever-increasing minority populations and are better prepared to receive their degrees and teaching credentials,” she said.

SMC officials said part of the grant money will be used to establish a one-stop teacher training resources center called Epicenter, where students can make sure they are on track to transfer to a four-year institution. Tutoring will also be available.

“Different universities have different requirements when it comes to education programs,” said Edie Spain, chair of the SMC education department. “We’ll have a counselor with expertise in transfer requirements, as well as information on financial aid for those various programs.

“This grant will also help bring more students into the education program and accelerate the whole transfer process.”

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