TRiO helps first-generation, low-income and students with disabilities to succeed

Junior Michael James came for the pizza.

It drew him to TRiO, a federal program that assists first-generation college students, as well as those who come from low-income families or have documented disabilities. The program is located on the third floor of the McNichols Campus library.

“I’m being honest,” James said. “I signed up to get free pizza but eventually I joined the workshops. TRiO gave me a spot to study, relax, to clear my mind from being stressed out from classes.”

He said TRiO also taught him to be open around people.

“I don’t want to say I’m friendly but I’m more open talking to people, especially people I don’t know,” he said. “The people in TRiO are real nice.”

The program aims to help students with their academic skills and to put them on the road to success after graduation.

Amber Johnson directs TRiO. She loves helping students any way she can.

“I understand where students are coming from,” she said. “When I was in college, I was a first-generation college student. I had great support that helped me with my academic skills.”

Johnson and her staff interact with students who need help –  everything from test taking to reading skills.

“Students verbally tell us that they’re in need of certain things, like developing certain skills and studying a certain way,” she said. “We talk about areas where they struggle with their classes and it gives us ideas that we need to work on to provide students the best skills they can use on their school work.”

What is the most difficult part of her job?

“I found that sometimes convincing students that they should take advantage of the resources can be a bit of challenge because I think they don’t use resources to aid themselves and may not feel smart or good enough,” she said.

Freshmen Michael Perdue joined TRiO from his computer on campus.

“I was having trouble with math and chemistry,” said Perdue. “I just didn’t get it at first.”

TRiO gave him more confidence to do better in those two courses.

“The support service is cool, easy to understand and everyone is super nice,” said Perdue.

Takirah Bond, a sophomore, works for TRiO.

“Before I got into TRiO, I went to certain workshops that didn’t really help me out,” she said.

Tutoring groups didn’t explain in a way that helped her understand the material better.

“Before I joined TRiO, I felt self-doubt,” she said. “I didn’t feel smart enough when I was taking my course. But with TRiO by my side, I learned how to use my resources effectively.”

She enjoys working with Johnson, the director.

“Amber is very cool,” Bond said. “Even when I have to work for ten hours a week, she makes sure my education comes first. She wants me do to well in my school work.”

Michael James said the group has a family feel about it.

“They make you feel like you’re home,” he added. “They really do care about your future. If Ms. Johnson is hearing this, I didn’t just join for the pizza – but for the people.”