SSU program helps pre-college students navigate online learning

March 9, 2021
ATS students with outreach coordinator

Current ATS Seniors submit college applications with ATS Outreach Coordinator Moises Gonzalez.

Cooking with ATS

ATS Outreach Staff preparing for a “Cooking With ATS” virtual series. (left to right Nick Lee, Monica Aviña, Seiri Aragon-Garcia)

ATS students with outreach coordinator
Cooking with ATS

By Nick Lee and Seiri Aragon-Garcia

Rohnert Park, CA — Sometimes, we all just need a moment to unwind. Whether it’s cooking, drawing, or just listening to music, a program at Sonoma State University has been virtually connecting with students grades 7 -12 across Sonoma and Mendocino counties in inventive ways to continue its mission to support students’ pathways towards college. 

The Academic Talent Search (ATS) program at SSU aims to help students get into college. The program’s mission is to prepare students for higher education and be successful in life. ATS is a free educational program for students, funded through the U.S. Department of Education. “ATS provides our students the resources and support needed to be college-ready and familiarizes them with the resources available to help them succeed in college,” said Nick Lee, outreach advisor for Academic Talent Search.

The coronavirus pandemic has created multiple stressors, and students especially need a moment to take their minds off real-world events and pressures. Students can find such moments of relief in events like the Doodle De-stress Club, a weekly 30-minute doodle session where students meet to share jokes, listen to calming music, and just talk. Another popular virtual event hosted by ATS was a Cook-Along which allowed students to cook a meal with an ATS staff member. 

As the coronavirus pandemic forced middle schools and high schools to adapt to an online learning format, the ATS program creatively shifted its student support services to a virtual format. With in-person gatherings no longer an option, the program’s response has allowed students to reach out for support in ways such as Zoom and texting. 

Despite going virtual, ATS’s goal of supporting students’ pathway towards college has stayed the same by providing student services such as virtual college field trips via Zoom, academic and personal workshops for student success, and assistance in completing college applications. ATS has adapted all of its services into a virtual format. 

ATS offers programming year-round at targeted middle and high schools, and participants receive services until they graduate from high school. Outreach workshops and advising sessions focus on financial aid, career exploration, college planning, study skills, and ACT/SAT prep. Additionally, students visit a variety of college campuses and receive assistance with completing college applications. Two-thirds of program participants are income-eligible and will be the first in their family to complete a bachelors’ degree. Find more about Academic Talent Search online at or contact the program via email

Media Contact

Julia Gonzalez