Student Success Stories

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.

TRIO serves hundreds of thousands of students nationwide with threats to funding on a daily basis. But TRIO is not a number and the stories of TRIO students are what bring it alive.  Tell your story here and share how TRIO works in your life.  YOU are TRIO.


What’s your story?

Click HERE and answer the questions in the form.  We will refine your story for you and post it on the website!

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.

Rahmo Abdi and Hanan Gumale, 2017

South Seattle College | Student Support Services

Rahmo Abdi and Hanan Gumale met at South Seattle College. They are friends and TRiO peer mentors who will graduate with their Associate of Arts Degree this summer.  Rahmo (pictured on the right) and Hanan are immigrants who came to the United States in their youth. Although neither has lived in Somalia, both of their families share the traditions of the Somali culture which, like many other cultures, prioritizes education for males. Girls are valued for their worth as brides, mothers, and caretakers. Rahmo and Hanan defied the pressure to marry young and have stubbornly persisted in their pursuit of education.

For Rahmo, the love of learning began in her kindergarten class in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. In school, she was introduced to singing and art which were joyful relief from the camp environment and her stepmother’s harsh treatment. After her father’s death, Rahmo was raised by her stepmother who clearly favored her half-siblings. “I loved learning from the beginning,” she recalls. But as she grew older, her stepmother put up roadblocks to success at school, refusing to pay for her textbooks and demanding that she take on more and more household chores. Eventually, she demanded that Rahmo drop out of school after eighth grade. However, Rahmo studied in secret using her friends’ school materials. Eventually, her uncle intervened and Rahmo was allowed to return to school. Moving to the United States renewed Rahmo’s hope to complete high school. The Running Start program sparked the dream of a college education. Rahmo plans to earn her Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing. She lives on her own and supports herself by working as a Certified Nursing Assistant.

Hanan has five younger brothers and two loving parents. She is a vivacious and joyful individual who describes herself as “prideful and confident” thanks to her family. Hanan started school in the fourth grade. Newly arrived in the United States, she did not know English or even how to hold a pencil. She remembers being the only dark-skinned student in the suburban elementary school and when her English improved, understood the kids telling each other how her dark skin would give them “cooties” if they touched her during tag. It was a tough time, but Hanan’s inner strength carried her through. Hanan had to take two years off from high school to help her mother at home following the birth of one and then another younger brother. She could easily have dropped out of school. Instead, she took summer classes and pushed herself to catch up, graduating on time! This accomplishment was the proof that Hanan needed to realize her ability and to pursue a college degree. She plans to major in Human Centered Design and Engineering at the University of Washington. She is particularly proud of having completed College Calculus; “I never thought of myself as a thinker or as a math person before,” she laughs

Clearly, Hanan and Rahmo are only beginning to realize their remarkable potentials.

Hannah Bennett, 2017

Grays Harbor College | Student Support Services

My name is Hannah Bennett and I am a first-generation college student. I have been self-supporting since I was a senior in high school. My path to higher education has been hard and very lonely. As a young person, I did not have a stable childhood. My father was never in my life. My mother is borderline schizophrenic. My mother’s mental illness caused her to be abusive and made it hard for her to hold down a job, thus I was homeless for many years during my childhood.
Despite being homeless and missing countless days of school- including half of my junior year in high school I was very dedicated to my education. I knew that an education was going to help me achieve my dreams. My senior year of high school I switched schools for the third and final time before my mom abandoned me with our apartment 3 months behind on rent. With no electricity and no running water, I had nowhere to go. I persevered. I lived there for a month while I worked and saved to get my own place. I graduated in 2012 from Hoquiam Homelink with honors and a 3.90 GPA.

I attended Grays Harbor College full time where I became heavily involved on campus. I was the student government’s Executive Officer of Government Relations and a work study in TRIO Student Support Services. The staff in TRIO helped me navigate the difficulties of college. They provided me with the academic and personal support I needed to be a successful and an influential student. The ladies at the Grays Harbor’s TRIO office have been my mentors, teachers, and friends. They have seen me on my best days and my worst, and they always encouraged me to keep going. Working as an assistant in the TRIO office has provided me with invaluable professional experience. And inspired me to want to help others succeed. This is the very foundation for my future career path. The staff at TRIO provided me with extensive knowledge of how to successfully apply for scholarships and helped me transfer from a community college to a university. I graduated from GHC in 2015 with honors and a 3.70 GPA before transferring to Western Washington University. My entire undergraduate degree is costing me less than $10,000, because of the scholarships I received. I could not have done this without the help of Grays Harbor College’s TRIO staff. The TRIO program is a life changer.

After completing my BA this June, I plan to earn a Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership. An Organizational Leadership degree will teach me to lead change, allow me to demonstrate alternative models that condition and connect our knowledge of how the world is organized, and open up a wide range of career possibilities. I want to make a global impact. After receiving my Master’s, I plan to establish a career in political and social reform. By overcoming the obstacles I faced at such a young age, I hope to teach others
that their struggles can empower them.

Click here for more Student Success Stories

Please contact Sarah Sabay 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


  Please use this template to create your own Student Success cards for your program promotion.

Skip to content