Students Forge Their Own Paths With TRIO

By Liam Higgins

Do you often feel overwhelmed with your own independence? As a student, you’re not alone. Like Lewis and Clark exploring the wild western plains of early America, the journey into college life can be a daunting and perilous expedition. Sixty percent of the SMCC student body is first-generation college students, and those students are attempting to navigate unexplored territory alone. But even Lewis and Clark enlisted Sacagawea to guide them, and as a student, you have the TRIO Student Support Service.

The Student Support Service (SSS) is a thorough and proven program focused on personal growth and individual success. It offers a variety of services to aid students in making the most of their time on campus and to ensure they receive their money’s worth from their education. Between securing financial aid, managing time for homework and classes, and maintaining that sought-after social life, the average undisciplined student needs all the help they can get. From success seminars to unique classes offered only to TRIO student’s, the program is specifically tailored to the needs of the individual.

One of these classes, a FIG course offered to freshmen in the fall semester, is designed to help students refine the skills needed to be a successful student. A TRIO student who goes by “Li” reflects on a self-learning exercise from this class, saying it helped her discover personal strengths and attributes. A peer leader in the program, Hillary Pimentel, who has been with the program for one and a half years, say it has greatly helped her in managing her time. Through TRIO, she has had help with signing up for student loans and financial assistance.

One of the greatest services TRIO offers, in my opinion, is the Success Coach. Upon being accepted to the program, students are assigned a success coach that will stick with them until graduation. The objective of the coach is to advise the student on a personal level — to work with you one on one in overcoming the barriers standing in the way of your goals.

The TRIO program is not a social club by any means. It is intended for students who take their education seriously but who may need a guide. That being said, there is clearly a communal feel to the way they operate. Many seminars are designed and orchestrated by students, and tutoring is available from your peers. The program may be intended to help students individually, but it also teaches them to help themselves. Working closely with others who share a similar mindset can be just what the doctor ordered.

If you are wondering if TRIO is for you, ask yourself, “Self, do I take my education seriously?” If you answered yes, keep reading. If you answered no, why are you here? In 2013, SMCC reported a dismal 13 percent graduation rate. The TRIO program graduates 25 percent of its students, and it’s only in its second year. That’s almost double.

“TRIO works because it offers both a community for students plus one on one advising, but most importantly because it represents a microcosm of the bigger SMCC community,” says Katherine Lualdi, the director of the program. Roughly 60 percent of SMCC students are eligible for this program, so do yourself a favor and check it out. Because while you may not be documenting the most direct water route across the continent for the purpose of commerce, everyone could use a little help.

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