Op-Ed Examples


Support for TRIO is an Investment in our Community and Across America

By: Your Name

In what is sure to be a devastating fallout for low-income Americans and their families across the country, on July 31st the Senate, House, and President Obama came together on a compromise debt ceiling package that will most certainly include large cuts to discretionary programs that matter most throughout our low-income neighborhoods.

One program that is sure to be targeted is the successful and critical TRIO program. Our President and many Members of Congress continue to stress the importance of an educated America, setting the goal to be number one in the world in higher education degree attainment by 2020 but yet they continue to support legislation that slashes funding for this important program — and impacting America’s investment in its future. Every year, TRIO helps tens of thousands of low-income and first-generation student, students with disabilities, and veterans in their pursuit of a college education and enables them to become more productive citizens. The United States will not reach its education goal by excluding the students who are so successfully served by the TRIO programs.

So why then, are cuts being aimed at these proven successful programs so crucial to the advancement of our students? I ask that the Congressional delegation serving (YOUR TOWN) ensure that when the tough decisions are made in deciding what program are cut in accordance to the debt ceiling negation, TRIO is not included. In these difficult economic times, with the increase of Americans—not just traditional students, but jobless adults and veterans—returning to the classroom, this is a time to build up, not decrease, services to our most vulnerable students. INSERT LOCAL TRIO PROGRAM FACTS HERE.

Of course, I agree with the need for greater fiscal responsibility, but not at the expense of students and families. We must work together to lift our fellow citizens out of poverty, not hold them down. When this issue is addressed again, I hope my elected officials will consider the impact their vote has on the community and future success of not only our students, but our investment in our country.

Upward Bound Program Could Be Cut 

Argen Duncan

Leaders of the Upward Bound program, which aims to help high school students get to college, fear they’ll have to stop work for at least a year due to federal budget cuts. Upward Bound, part of the federal TRIO program, gets all of its money from the U.S. government.

Upward Bound operates at Eastern New Mexico University, and can serve up to 68 high school students a year, said Director Rodrick Chambers. Students must have low incomes and be the first in their families to go to college. The ENMU Upward Bound program’s current four-year grant ends Aug. 31. With national leaders struggling with the budget, Chambers said one in four Upward Bound programs could be cut. ENMU’s two other TRIO programs, Talent Search and the College Success Program, have been told they will continue to receive federal money, Chambers said, but they could still receive fatal cuts.

Upward Bound programs around the country already experienced budget decreases earlier this year, he said. Chambers expects to learn Aug. 2 if the program will receive more money. “Until then, we’re just pending,” Chambers said. Congress has the option to pass a continuing resolution to keep Upward Bound operating for another year. However, Chambers said there’s no guarantee that will happen, and even if it did, the program would be in jeopardy again in 2012. If ENMU’s program loses its usual funding, Upward Bound Coordinator Juan Rivas said, leaders will have to apply for a different grant, this one’s competitive. If they win it, getting the money could take another year, he said.

During the academic year, Upward Bound participants receive tutoring, ACT test preparation, college tours and community service opportunities. With the summer program, they live on campus, take classes and go on a trip to places such as Los Angeles and New York City.

ENMU’s Upward Bound program has been open to students in Portales, Clovis, Dora, Elida, Floyd, Texico and Melrose. However, Chambers said only Portales and Clovis would qualify for the services in the coming grant cycle, because the other schools’ higher graduation rates don’t meet the criteria that determines need. “That is the reality of our next grant, that we’ll have to cut out five of the seven schools we serve,” he said. Chambers is encouraging parents to ask their Congressional representatives to change the criteria.

Upward Bound participant Jessica Bryan, 16, of Clovis said through the program, she’d learned what she needed to do to get into college, and her math, science and English work had improved. “It gives you hope,” she said.

Zachary Martinez, 17, also of Clovis, said he participated in Upward Bound because he thought it was a good opportunity to help him get to college. Not only has it provided information, but he said the program taught him that he can go to college, no matter his background, if he puts his mind to it.

Take On Life

Brian Koonz on life in Greater Danbury

Danbury kids fight to save life-changing college program

July 28, 2011 at 10:05 pm by Brian Koonz

Hi everyone,

When Socheata Thai tells you life was hard in Cambodia, she means it. “I moved here when I was 6 years old,” said Socheata, a sophomore at Danbury High School. “We came from a very small village. I didn’t go to school and I pretty much wore the same clothes every day. “We didn’t know the (English) language when we came here,” Socheata added. “And we really didn’t know anything about college — how to pay for it, how to apply for it. We didn’t know anything.

”Thanks to TRIO — a group of federally funded programs that help kids from low-income families ramp up to college — Socheata knows a lot more about good grades, writing a surefire college essay, studying for the college boards, and applying for admission and financial aid.  At least for now.

The TRIO programs, including the Upward Bound program that Socheata attends at Western Connecticut State University with more than 100 other Danbury kids, are on the chopping block in Washington as part of the debt ceiling debate. Is this really where we want to cut back? Is it really worth cutting $26 million — literally, .000186 percent of a $14 trillion debt ceiling — to stop kids like Socheata from going to college, earning a degree, and making a better world for herself and her country?

I don’t think so.

Consider: Twenty-one students from Danbury’s Upward Bound program and its state counterpart, the Connecticut Collegiate Awareness and Preparation program, will attend college this fall at WestConn, UConn, Wesleyan, George Mason, Rochester Institute of Technology, Southern Connecticut, Central Connecticut, Norwalk Community College and Naugatuck Valley Community College. And that’s just from Danbury. These 21 at-risk students, who come from families where neither parent has a college degree in many cases, earned $179,197 in grants and scholarships to help pay for their college educations.

For Jenny Yung, a 15-year-old junior at Danbury High School who hopes to study pre-med in college, Upward Bound and ConnCAP are programs that are worth saving — not just for her, but also for her brother, John, a student at Rogers Park Middle School.

“Even though my parents didn’t go to college, they know how important education is for a better life,” Jenny said. “For underprivileged kids and kids from families with low incomes, this is a chance to get a college degree someday. “The college tours we take, the SAT prep classes, the extra academic help, it really, really helps you,” Jenny said. “I know a lot more about what it takes to go to college than a lot of kids who are older than me.”

According to the Council for Opportunity in Education, more than 800,000 students across the country benefit from TRIO programs each year.

The kids come from every racial group — black, white, Asian, Hispanic and everything in between. They come in search of an education to earn a good living, and to contribute to the economy and tapestry of our nation.

TRIO isn’t a drain on America. It’s an investment in America.

Just ask media mogul Oprah Winfrey or ABC News journalist John Quinones. Go ahead, ask actress Angela Bassett or former NBA superstar Patrick Ewing. And don’t forget Franklin Chang-Diaz, America’s first Hispanic astronaut, a man who took advantage of TRIO as an undergraduate at the University of Connecticut. All of these accomplished professionals are TRIO alumni.

“They don’t guarantee you a college degree with this program,” said Aelijah Ward, 17, a Danbury High School senior. “That’s up to you.”

Guest opinion: TRIO needs to survive cuts

By Aaron Brown

On July 31, the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives and President Barack Obama came together on a compromise debt ceiling package that will undoubtedly include large cuts to discretionary programs that matter most in our low-income neighborhoods. However, Washingtonians have renewed hope because U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, who has fought for low-income Washingtonians her entire 18-year career, has been selected for the Select Committee on Deficit Reduction – the committee that will have a tough task in recommending $1.5 trillion in cuts by Nov. 23.

One program that will be targeted by some committee members is the successful and critical TRIO program. TRIO is a series of eight federally funded educational opportunity programs designed to help encourage and prepare individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds in achieving a four-year college degree. TRIO programs originated in the Higher Education Act of 1965 and were a part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty. Today, TRIO serves more than 850,000 students from sixth grade through college graduation.

As an alumnus of Eastern Washington University’s TRIO Student Support Services project and the program’s current director, I’m concerned about the impact our current economy is having on federal and state support for education programs. I’ve seen firsthand the impact programs like TRIO can have on lives, and what it can continue to do for our community.

When I first began attending college, I lacked confidence and an understanding of the college culture. TRIO helped me discover my inner leadership qualities and provided me with study tools that helped me graduate with honors. Through tutoring, mentoring and internships, I discovered my career path. Now, because of TRIO, I hold a master’s degree in organizational psychology and most importantly, my two children are being prepared for their opportunity to attend college.

Obama and many members of Congress continue to stress the importance of an educated America, setting the goal to be No. 1 in the world in higher education degree attainment by 2020. Yet, they continue to support legislation that slashes funding for educational programs – and impacts America’s investment in its future. Not only does this send the wrong message regarding the importance of education to our local communities, but it also suggests a lack of commitment to achieving the stated goal.

Every year, the TRIO programs in Washington help more than 15,600 low-income and first-generation students, students with disabilities and veterans in their pursuit of a college education and enable them to become more productive and satisfied citizens. Do we really want to support legislation that will harm our global competitiveness and reduce access to education for only those born into high-income families?

In these arduous economic times in Washington, and with the increase of citizens returning to the classroom, this is a time to build up, not decrease, services to our most vulnerable students. I ask that Sen. Murray ensure that when the tough decisions are made in choosing which programs are cut, educational programs like TRIO are not included.

Sadly, the reduction in funding for TRIO began last April when it was cut by $26.6 million. This cut is already leaving its mark in our local community. The reduction caused Spokane Public Schools to lose out on two grant opportunities that would have served 1,000 low-income middle school and high school students. Rogers was one of the target high schools that would have benefited. Students from Rogers were to receive additional college and career preparation support in a project designed as an educational pipeline for enrollment in college. The design of one of the two projects would have moved eligible graduating seniors right into the college TRIO Student Support Services project at EWU.

Currently, EWU houses two highly successful and nationally recognized TRIO projects: Student Support Services (SSS) and the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate program. EWU’s SSS project was established in 1977 and currently serves 290 students annually. The McNair project began in 1989 and has seen more than 70 low-income students earn master’s degrees. Six have earned doctorates.

I agree with the need for greater fiscal responsibility, but not on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens. We must work together to lift people out of poverty, not hold them down. When this issue is addressed, I hope my senator, Patty Murray, will stand up and fight for Washington TRIO programs when it matters most.

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