Preparing for college can be overwhelming for anyone. Both academically and financially, there are hurdles that must be overcome before even deciding what college to attend. Those hurdles are even more insurmountable for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. These can be students from low-income families, first-generation college students, and students with disabilities.
The Department of Education recognized this issue and developed TRIO, a Federal outreach and student services program. Originally TRIO consisted of three programs: Upward Bound, Talent Search, and Student Support Services. Each of them was designed to identify and assist disadvantaged students as they navigated the higher education system.
TRIO has since expanded to include eight programs, adding: Educational Opportunity Centers, Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement, Training Program, Upward Bound Math-Science, and Veteran’s Upward Bound. Learn more about each program by clicking on the links. Public and private agencies, institutions of higher education, and a combination of the preceding may apply for grants through the TRIO program, and an eligible student attending the institution or living in an area the institution serves will benefit.
Two such students happen to be local brother and sister Texas 12 residents Thania and Saul. They both grew up in a low-income household, and when it came time to considering colleges, they learned of the Upward Bound Math-Science Program.
TRIO’s outreach team hosted a program for students interested in STEM at Saul’s middle school where he heard about the opportunity. Both Thania and Saul were very interested in math and science, and when Saul told Thania about the program, she took the initiative to also pursue the opportunity. Even though Thania was already in high school, she contacted the program director and asked if she was eligible to attend the program. After speaking with Thania, the program happily accepted her to the free Upward Bound Math-Science Summer Camp. Thania refers to this program as a “game changer” in the development of her career. Over the course of the summer, both Thania and Saul heard from different speakers every morning, each from a different career field. They both received computer training, and under the guidance of faculty members, they obtained hands-on experience by conducting science projects. It was here that Thania and Saul gained a respect for their future career fields.
Upward Bound provided more than just a summer experience for Thania and Saul. The two developed strong mentor-mentee relationships with program counselors, and through those relationships, the counselors assisted both Thania and Saul in finding the right colleges and applying for available student aid. They have both since graduated college and begun successful careers, Thania as a mechanical engineer at Lockheed Martin and Saul as a civil engineer with Atmos Energy - both attribute their current success to the lessons learned and the relationships developed while in the Upward Bound Program offered through TRIO.
As a former educator, I have seen firsthand the impact an education can have on someone’s life. As a Member of Congress, I will continue fighting for effective programs like this, that teach future generations how to be successful and enable them to reach unthinkable heights.