TRIO program celebrates 50 years

Marshal Will, News Reporter

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TRIO celebrated its 50th anniversary on Wednesday Feb. 20. TRIO, which is also called Student Support Services, is a program that’s intended to help eligible students reach their goal of graduating college and help boost their confidence in achieving those objectives.

The Department of Education stated that TRIO is a federal outreach and student services program used to identify and provide services to students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Academic TRIO advisor, Kate Parsi, talked about TRIO’s historical presence.

“We have been on campus for 44 years, but TRIO as a program nationally is in its 50th year. But Winona State has had the program for 44 years,” Parsi said.

The role of the program is meant to provide guidance for students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds and help guide them through the university.

Parsi talked about the general process in how they help students.

“The biggest part is the supplemental academic advising we provide on campus,” Parsi said. “Whether you have a major or not you have an advisor and it’s our job to try and fill in the blanks. Some students come in once a week, some once a month. We just fill in wherever the student has a need.”

Parsi said the main goal of the program is to help students get from freshmen year to graduation day.

The origin of the TRIO program dates to the passing of the Higher Education Act of 1965. The program was part of President Lyndon Johnson’s great society reform agenda.

“President Johnson, LBJ, thought that higher education should be for everyone,” Parsi said. “That was on everyone’s mind during the civil rights movement. Equal opportunity for everyone is what it was all about.”

Since then there have been additional legislation that either added benefits or extended protections for students in disadvantaged backgrounds. TRIO was expanded and includes a group of eight federal programs.

The TRIO programs are intended to help students who are college bound and may have some disadvantages like income level or being a first-generation college student in their family.

The requirements for joining Student Support Services are that the student must meet at least one of the following criteria. The student is a first-generation college student, or they fall under the criteria of being low-income according to federal low-income guidelines, or they have a documented disability.

Students in TRIO have described a few ways where it has benefited them. TRIO student and nursing major, Julee Pettis, said it helped her meet new people.

“It helps you connect with students and has helped me make new friends,” Pettis said. “I met my roommate that way. We learn about leadership skills and there are workshop events like last year there was a nursing event.”

One of the included benefits of being part of TRIO is it can give unlimited time in the tutoring center versus a student not a part of TRIO is limited to having just 10 hours of tutoring time.

While in TRIO, a student would frequently meet with their advisor to see if they are staying on track with their academics.

Mary Waldermarsen, a student in the TRIO program talked about this process.

“They have advisors and at the beginning of the semester, you meet with them,” Waldermarsen said. “For example, we had a meeting a few weeks ago about time management. They go over and help determine when the best time is to get stuff done.”

Waldermarsen mentioned some other benefits, like meeting with other students to work on school work.

“We had a leadership club and I was able to make friends with those students,” Waldermarsen said. “They have a big table in the TRIO room so everyone just comes in, eats lunch there and does homework.”

Jaedyn Pieper is a student that works for the TRIO program and is also a tutor for TRIO students at Winona State. She shared her experience as a student employee of the program.

“There are TRIO students that seek tutoring and as a recreational therapy major, I help students who need extra guidance,” Pieper said. “And as a TRIO student worker, I just work at the main desk.”

In the past TRIO has hosted some workshops that help students with issues like time management or how to write resumes. Pieper commented on some of the services the program offers.

“Academic services, they have advisors, they have workshops, they have different outings and events that you can be a part of him. There are leadership workshops that I believe helps students tremendously,” Pieper said.

Student Support Services can be a not well-known resource that’s available for eligible students and Parsi emphasized how it can be underutilized.

“TRIO can be one of the best-kept secrets on college campuses. When I travel around to TRIO conferences we hear about the work we do but other students on a college campus don’t,” Parsi said.

If a student wants to know if they are eligible to be in the program, Parsi described it as easy for a student to come in and meet with an advisor.

“The fact is we are very accessible. If you’re wondering am I eligible, would I use this service? The best thing you can do is come to our office, it’s in the library, room 219, make an appointment with an advisor,” Parsi said. “A half an hour conversation can change the projection of your future and help graduate.”