Sylvia Symonds, associate vice president of outreach for ASU’s Educational Outreach and Student Services, said the impact of these programs on access to higher education is significant.

“By supporting high school and college students, as well as veterans, TRIO and GEAR UP programs are helping Arizona move closer toward our Achieve60AZ goal of increasing postsecondary attainment. Our statewide goal is that by 2030, 60% of Arizona adults will hold a postsecondary credential or degree. These programs and others like them will help ensure our state has a thriving workforce and economy.” 

Sun Devils such as Travis Luck, a U.S. Navy veteran now studying technological entrepreneurship and management, know firsthand how much TRIO affects whether students have the tools and support they need to overcome barriers and get to graduation.

Luck, who is originally from New Knoxville, Ohio, said Veterans Upward Bound not only solidified his math skills ahead of attending ASU but provided a sense of community.  

“The program has given me confidence by showing that there are many resources that I can use and people that I can count on if I ever find myself struggling in a particular class. It has also introduced me to many like-minded individuals who are in the same sort of position as myself. It brings me solace to know that I’m not the only one who is catching up.”

For Jennifer Dueñas, who is majoring in pharmacology and toxicology, the TRIO Student Support Services STEM program at ASU’s West campus meant help with books, supplies and what she considers a campus family. The STEM program offers support specifically to students who are pursuing science, technology, engineering and math.

“TRIO STEM has been a tremendous help in not only providing me resources that I need and would have difficulties acquiring on my own such as books and supplies, but this program has also given me a family on campus formed of … students coming from backgrounds just as diverse and unique as mine. I receive mentorship from my own peers as well as the staff in the program who do all they can to support all their students; their work is truly remarkable,” she said.

The program has also helped Dueñas get a head start on her professional career because of connections with leaders in her industry and guidance on postgraduate work and other opportunities.

“Without my involvement in this program, I dare to say I would be nowhere near as invested in my future as I am now because through this program I gained clarity over what it is that I want to do and how exactly I plan to achieve that,” she said.

Sharon Smith, dean of students at ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus, said that she takes great pride in the effects these programs have on students’ lives.

“The TRIO and GEAR UP programs’ impact on Arizona students is tremendous,” said Smith.

“By providing necessary academic, personal development and career preparation tools to enroll and complete postsecondary education, these programs not only change the trajectory of a student’s life but also the family’s legacy.” 

 Sun Devil Storyteller Austin Davis contributed to this article. 

Hannah Moulton Belec

Digital marketing manager, Educational Outreach and Student Services