TRiO provides support


Gunter Kleist

Michele Feiner

TRiO is a program offered by Academic Support Services to help eligible students succeed. According to Michele Feiner, the director of academic support and TRiO, its mission is to be “a program targeted to serve and assist low income individuals, first gen college students, and individuals with disabilities to progress through the academic pipeline from middle school to post baccalaureate programs. We are here to make sure students from those three distinct categories have all that they need to make it through college to get that degree and beyond.”

The TRiO program supports students in their independence while also allowing them access to resources and opportunities to help them succeed in that. “The biggest thing that we offer is a mentoring program,” said Feiner. “So every TRiO student who comes in gets a mentor, and that mentor is really a surrogate parent in many ways. They are the ones teaching them those hidden agendas. [. . .] It’s somebody to help walk them through and to be their cheerleaders throughout their four years, or five or six. Or however long they are here.”

Feiner also noted that TRiO students have access to a variety of academic supports, from drop-in study or tutoring sessions to help communicating with faculty. The TRiO office often serves as a “home base” for eligible students because it offers so many different kinds of support aside from academics.

According to Feiner, this support continues to exist during breaks, which is especially important for TRiO students who do not have a support system at home or, in some cases, don’t have a home. “We have some students who are or were in the foster system; they literally don’t have another place to go, so we’ll go out and get food for them and make sure that they have food around for the holidays, and we have some people in the office so they have a support network,” said Feiner.

While many students take advantage of strong support in the many areas of their lives, others primarily use TRiO and its resources to find scholarships, and still others frequent the drop-in tutoring sessions either to get help with their work or to engage in “body-doubling” practices, meaning that simply being in a room with others who are doing their work helps them to focus on their own. “As a student of TRiO, you’re able to receive as much or as little support as you want or need,” said Feiner.

The TRiO program and those working within it are eager to help students in almost every aspect of their lives. According to Feiner, even if the members of the TRiO staff themselves cannot help or answer a specific question, they will almost certainly find someone who can.
“It’s always worth reaching out for absolutely anything you need help with – academic or not – because whether or not somebody in TRiO can help you, we will always connect you with someone who can, and we do that all the time,” said Feiner.

TRiO also provides its students with opportunities to attend trips to places such as Boston and Canada. These trips allow students to explore new places and gain new experiences, while also engaging in educational activities. For Feiner, however, one of the best things about these trips is providing students from low-income backgrounds the opportunity to go places and do things that they haven’t had the opportunity to do previously.
Additionally, TRiO not only provides students with a network of resources but also helps them to begin networking with individuals in their intended field of work. According to Feiner, this can be incredibly helpful for first-generation and/or low-income students who don’t have the same built-in network of peers and mentors as their multi-generational, higher-income peers. These networks provide students with the opportunity to introduce themselves to the workforce and those within it in order to prepare for the jobs that they want and be successful in finding, applying for, and being successful in them.

For eligible students to receive the full benefits of the TRiO program, however, it is important that they maintain connections with their TRiO mentors. These connections and communications can be as simple as messaging their mentor that they are doing well, and keeping them updated throughout each semester. Doing this allows those working within the program to see exactly who is taking advantage of TRiO resources and being an otherwise active member of the program, as it is more difficult to provide services to those who applied for the program, were accepted, and then simply stopped all forms of communication.

The TRiO program exists in order to level the playing field between those with natural advantages for succeeding in college and in life and those who were not given the same opportunities. This program offers benefits and resources surrounding most aspects of college life, from finding and applying for scholarships to finding and applying for jobs, and those working within it are eager to help its students find resources in whatever areas they do not specialize in. According to Feiner, the TRiO program is worth applying to even if an individual isn’t sure that they qualify, as the off chance that they do qualify opens them up to a world of opportunities to help them succeed.