The TRIO experience is a unique one for each and every student. It is the first-generation student who is paving the way for their family and future; the student fighting the barriers of poverty; the student who achieves success in the face of disability. Each student has a story to tell that exemplifies the reasons why TRIO exists to build a new generation of college graduates.
Alondra Diaz Merino, 2022
Grays Harbor College | Educational Opportunity Centers
Alondra Diaz Merino (she/her/hers) first started her academic journey at Grays Harbor College through Running Start. She started her junior year of high school and was excited to see what the future held for her. She received her A.A.S. in June of 2022. She liked the experience she had during the program. She mentioned how thankful she was for Paul Turner and Lori Christmas. “They both helped me throughout the program and made it easy to schedule courses. It was a very enjoyable moment for me. They made sure the process was clear and that I remained on track with graduation.”
Alondra knew that she wanted to remain in Pacific County, so she decided to continue her education through Grays Harbor College. Her former English teacher from Raymond High School is now the Director of TRIO Educational Opportunity Centers at Grays Harbor College. “I remembered when my former English teacher, Ashley Bowie Gallegos, came to Raymond High School to give a presentation on TRIO EOC. This is how I first became familiar with the program.”
Alondra mentioned how TRIO EOC helped with the transitional process and walked her through the CNA program requirements. She was later accepted into the program and was provided with financial assistance to complete the program. “TRIO EOC guided me on my next step towards nursing. I was introduced to new resources and opportunities that I did not know were possible or attainable.” She decided to continue her college career at Grays Harbor College because the college is community-based and the staff she had interacted with was helpful. “I felt a sense of belonging and the college is close to home.”
Alondra is enrolled in Pre-Nursing courses at Grays Harbor College for the fall quarter. She has applied for her CNA state tests and will be testing soon. Alondra completed the CNA program this summer and mentioned that it provided her with insight on which field of expertise she would like to pursue. “After gaining this experience, I know that I would like to work at a nursing home.” She would like to transfer to a four-year college once she has completed her nursing degree. Alondra would advise future students to not be afraid to ask for help. “When I first started at GHC, I was afraid to ask for help. When I noticed that there was no way around it, I began to ask for assistance. I then received an immense amount of assistance and it made my journey at GHC a lot easier.”
Jady Alonso Chavez, 2022
Grays Harbor College | Student Support Services
I am first-generation, and although it is a great feeling, it’s often stressful having to hold this standard for myself when I feel like giving up. My family allows me to keep pushing forward, especially during tough times. I grew up in a Hispanic household and shelters. My mom was a single parent growing up until I was 8. I dropped out of high school and achieved my GED through Juvie school. This was a challenge for me because I ruined a lot of good opportunities during these times in my life. I overcame it by continuing my education at Grays Harbor College. I walked the GED program and asked if they could enroll me in their running start program. This was the day my whole life changed!
I learned about TRIO during the beginning of the pandemic when I needed assistance with financial aid. TRIO supports you, especially with questions or additional help, like filling out FASFA. I was very discouraged about going to college after attempting to fill out the FASFA paperwork, but after my TRIO advisor helped me, I could focus on school and take the following steps.
My goal in life is to become a Fashion Designer and own my line of clothing. TRIO helped me because I would have never met my advisor, who pushed me to continue attending college after receiving my AA. I am now attending SPU and majoring in apparel design because of her, and I’m so thankful I had her there to guide me in the right direction.I hope to move to New York City after I graduate from SPU, attend The Fashion Institute of Technology, and double major in merchandising there. I hope to pave my legacy in the fashion world and leave a mark where it will change my life and others.
Lupita Reyes V, 2021
Yakima Valley College | Upward Bound
My name is Lupita Reyes and I am the youngest of five children and come from a hard-working Mexican family. Since I was ten years old, I have been solely raised by my mother and my siblings. I am very thankful for the loving and secure home I grew up in. It has always been difficult for me to feel confident in the choices I make. I lacked the self-esteem to trust in my intuitions and decisions. I recall times where I needed other people’s approval to feel somewhat satisfied with anything I did. This really took a toll on me because any choice I had to make, I would contemplate for hours before and after my action was taken. I was afraid of failure. With TRiO Upward Bound, however, I was taught how to make my own decisions without relying on others. Whether the decision caused a positive or negative outcome, I was taught that learning from the outcome was better than being too afraid to do anything at all. My fear kept me from moving forward in all aspects and with the support from Upward Bound, I now trust myself more, both in and out of failure.
As a first-generation low-income student, my parents could not provide any financial assistance or educational advice to my siblings and me. My mom went through various types of farm working and did not have an extended educational background. Even without that type of support, I was always encouraged to do my best with my family’s love and guidance. Although having to learn from and adapt to educational hurdles was difficult, I grew from those experiences and can now pursue higher education.
I have my older sisters to thank when it comes to joining the TRIO Upward Bound program. They were the first in my family to participate in the Yakima Valley College Upward Bound program during high school. I had no idea what Upward Bound entailed and how the program assisted first-generation students like myself. I was encouraged by them to apply for the summer residential program and the year before entering high school, I did.
Being a part of the TRiO Upward Bound program is such a unique experience because it not only provides resources to work toward higher education, but the staff and the participants always create a welcoming and supportive atmosphere. Understanding the workings of applying to institutions and how to prepare for, but also prosper in those environments took a lot of weight off my shoulders. Upward Bound helped me mature into a knowledgeable and more confident person that will help me in my future endeavors, such as a university.
One of my life goals is to have the financial freedom to travel the world. I have always been interested in learning about different cultures and the languages from those cultures. I wish to one day visit as many countries as I can and experience the different environments, foods, and languages each of them has. Through TRiO I had the opportunity to learn Japanese and get to know the culture of Japan. This class opened a new area of interest. Additionally, Upward Bound has taught me about financial responsibility and many other skills that will not only help me reach my goal but achieve other goals in the future.
I hope in the future I can find a career that I can be excited to do every day because if I have the opportunity to get a post-secondary education, I want to explore more of my interests during that time. I also want to eventually help my mom financially and rid the burden of her bills. She is such a hard worker and an amazing mother that I want to show her how much I appreciate everything she has done for me and my siblings.
Kainen Bell, 2017
University of Washington | Student Support Services
My name is Kainen Bell and I grew up in Tacoma, Washington, and have been supported by TRIO programs from middle school to college. My mother raised me and my sister by herself and did not have much time to explain the college process or take me to career fairs. However, TRIO filled that gap for me and provided hope and resources to apply to college. I later was accepted to the UW and received the Costco Diversity Scholarship which made affording college a reality. Within the first days of school, UW TRIO Student Support Services opened their arms and guided me through the campus.
With their support, I achieved my goals of being the first person in my family to go abroad, traveling to Brazil twice, and Germany. I also became heavily involved on-campus and served in as many capacities as I could including being a resident advisor, student ambassador for the Foster School of Business and Office of Minority Affairs, member of the student government board of directors, and mentor for the Foster School Young Executives of Color program. While working in these leadership activities TRIO staff helped me map out my goal of being the first person in over 10 years at the UW to graduate with double degrees in the School of Business (information systems) and School of Social Work. Thanks to their support and many others, I was able to successfully complete this goal. During my senior year I was honored as one of the recipients of the Husky 100 recognition, which selects 100 students from all 3 UW campuses who made the most of the UW experience. Along the way I also became a student with the Ronald E. McNair program because I wanted to be the first person in my family to attend graduate school, and thanks to their resources and training, I am currently finishing my Masters in Social Work degree at Columbia University. As far as next steps, I was recently named a semi-finalist for the Fulbright program, and if I receive the award, I will have the opportunity to return to Brazil and conduct research on non-profits. I would like to thank the TRIO program, staff, and its supporters because I am 100% confident that I would not be standing where I am today if it were not for them.
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Please contact Sarina Tung if you would like to submit your alumni stories to be taken to Washington D.C. and shared with your Congressional members during Policy Seminar firstname.lastname@example.org