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TRiO office points way to student success


August 17, 2009

It’s a source of support, both academic and personal, for some 240 students on Arizona State University’s West campus. The TRiO Academic Achievement Center offers a range of services including tutoring, learning skills workshops, mentoring, social activities and more.

The federally funded TRiO program serves first-generation university students, those who are income-eligible, and students with documented disabilities. Many of the students served by TRiO meet more than one of the eligibility criteria.

“If it weren’t for TRiO, I wouldn’t still be in school,” says history and English major Kelly Irvin, who is the first person in her family to attend a university.

“I came from an environment that placed no value on education, and at first I felt like a fish out of water in a higher education setting,” Irvin says. “TRiO staff members understand my needs and concerns and how to address them. Thanks to their support, I have gone from feeling like I didn’t belong at a university to preparing to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).”

Irvin, who expects to complete her two bachelor’s degrees next May, earned a 4.0 GPA during the spring 2009 semester. She also has expanded her TRiO involvement by becoming a member of Team TRiO, a new community outreach and service organization on the West campus.

“We’re proud of the achievements of TRiO students,” says Sharon Smith, director of the TRiO Academic Achievement Center. “Over the past academic year, students in the program maintained an average GPA of 3.05. Nearly three-quarters of TRiO students received scholarships, either through ASU or from private donors. Most of those scholarships are merit-based.”

Irvin is a recipient of ASU’s Maroon and Gold Scholarship, while fellow TRiO student Crystal Castro received a Provost Scholarship. Castro is a graduate of Phoenix’s Maryvale High School who is preparing to enter her sophomore year. She says it took a little time for her to realize all the ways TRiO could assist her.

“I started out just using the computers in the TRiO resource room, but then I began to realize the program had much more to offer,” Castro says. “The chance to talk to mentors has been very valuable to me. I’ve also enjoyed the chance to go to cultural events and make friends with students I’ve met through TRiO.”

Smith says an important part of TRiO’s success is the fact that staff members have the ability to reach out to students from a range of backgrounds and ages. “It’s gratifying to hear positive comments from students like Crystal, who came to ASU right out of high school, as well as Kelly, who took a longer route to the university,” she says.

Both Irvin and Castro point to mentoring from faculty and staff as an important TRiO offering. Students also can receive tutoring in a wide range of topics, from math and statistics to literacy and writing development, along with individual help in skills such as note-taking.

TRiO offers regular workshops focusing on subjects such as study skills, time management, and test-taking. Staff members also can help students identify their individual learning styles and how they can adjust their study strategies based on those styles.

“Beyond the help with things like study skills, what TRiO really has given me is confidence,” Irvin says.

“Part of having confidence is knowing when and where to look for help,” Smith says. “Because many TRiO students are first-generation college students, they can’t rely on family members to help them navigate the university system. So in addition to the many services we offer in the TRiO Academic Achievement Center, we also help students make connections with other offices on campus that can offer them support and assistance.”

The West campus TRiO office is now accepting applications from ASU students who wish to receive services during the 2009/10 academic year. For more information, call (602) 543-8121, visit www.west.asu.edu/sa/trio/, or stop by the TRiO Academic Achievement Center in Room 220 of the University Center Building.