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NC State TRIO: Providing educational opportunity for all

Translating the full scope of the TRIO program into words is no small task, simply because there is so much good being done.

It gives small town kids an introduction to a world beyond their rural upbringings. It reduces financial barriers for underserved students. It serves as an equally enthusiastic cheerleader for the student who is struggling to return to campus for another semester, and for the student who has received 21 college acceptance letters. It’s the manifestation of what we already know: that outstanding students emerge from every walk of life.

TRIO is very clearly a lot of things. Above all, it’s three programs working in conjunction to support an overarching goal of providing educational opportunity for all.

Talent Search

Pre-college program supporting middle and high school students

Serves: 800

  • TRIO’s earliest opportunity to reach students, introducing the idea of a college education as early as sixth grade.
  • Meets students where they are by providing academic support, exposure to career options, and cultural enrichment opportunities tailored to various ages and grades.
  • Closely collaborates with schools and families to build a unified system of support and establish a solid foundation of academic achievement.

“We teach students to look at the bigger picture, instead of just ‘study and you’ll be better.’ They need to figure out the hard and soft skills, so that they’ll know how to advocate for themselves.” – Theresa O’Donnell, Talent Search Academic Coordinator

Upward Bound

Pre-College program supporting high school students

Serves: 186

  • Offers academic assistance during Saturday Academy, Summer Residential Academy, and scheduled tutoring hours where students participate in mock SAT and ACT testing, learn to navigate the financial aid process, and improve their time management and study skills.
  • Introduces students to the campus life experience, both in and out of North Carolina, on summer college tours and enrichment trips.
  • Assists students with completing applications for scholarships and college admission, keeping applicants apprised of opportunities for financial assistance.

“I started working with TRIO during a six week session in college, and that was it. I knew I wanted to work with high school students for the rest of my life, and it’s been amazing.”    – Maurice Mathis, Upward Bound Academic Coordinator

Student Support Services

Collegiate program

Serves: 140

  • Provides full continuum of TRIO assistance for students who have been program participants since sixth grade, supporting them through degree completion.
  • Adds breadth to NC State’s existing support services, focusing on the unique needs of underserved populations.
  • Provides the tools and guidance needed for first generation students to become self-sufficient and for families to effectively support students.

“We want students to feel like NC State is a place where they belong and find a niche, a home away from home. It’s more than just showing up and getting a degree.” – Courtney Simpson, Student Support Services Director

TRIO’s benefit isn’t limited to current students. Shepherding just one individual into an opportunity of higher education can change the legacy of an entire family, providing the experience and resources needed to break free from past cycles and paving the way for those who will follow. The knowledge that someone from a nearby county or a similar economic background was able to earn a degree can be a lightbulb moment for students who are wondering if success is possible for those who hail from rural or underserved communities. Making a personal connection to that success allows students to say, “Why not me? I can do it too.”

In recent years, TRIO, like many other programs, has been faced with the challenge of accomplishing more with fewer resources. “In spite of this,” says Marsha Pharr, TRIO’s executive director, “we have continued to see the same successes, and a lot of that is because of the outstanding relationships that we have at this institution. Whenever we reach out to someone in the university, whether it’s the Counseling Center, Financial Aid, Admissions, or the Women’s Center, without exception, they step up. The campus community is extremely important to our program, and we understand and value that.”

Pharr also emphasizes that there are significant gains beyond the personal improvements seen in students. Each program boasts impressive, measurable successes. Upward Bound, for example, maintains a 100% high school graduation rate. Of those students, 97% will be accepted to and enroll in an institution of higher learning. Nearly 85% will earn a college degree within six years.

It’s abundantly clear. TRIO is working, and it has been for the past 50 years.