CULLOWHEE – Three federally funded programs located at Western Carolina University observed National TRIO Day on Saturday, Feb. 22, in recognition of a nationwide effort to help young people overcome barriers to educational success.
Since 1965, more than 10.5 million Americans, primarily from low income and working families, have benefited from the services of the TRIO pre college and college programs. At Western, those programs consist of Talent Search, Upward Bound Math and Science, and Student Support Services.
Congress established the TRIO programs nearly 35 years ago to enable Americans, regardless of economic circumstance, race or ethnic background, to successfully enter college and graduate. In many communities throughout America, the TRIO programs are the only programs that help low income Americans enter college, graduate and move on to participate more fully in America’s economic and social life, said Arnold Mitchem, president of the Council for Opportunity in Education.
Specific TRIO programs identify promising students, prepare them to do college level work, strengthen mathematics and science skills, provide tutoring and support services to students once they reach campus, and provide information on academic and financial aid opportunities. Currently, more than 2,000 projects are hosted at some 1,200 post secondary institutions and 100 community agencies.
Two of the TRIO programs at Western are designed to provide support services to middle and high school students, while another program provides support services to students once they reach the WCU campus.
The Talent Search program, directed by Todd Murdock, is an early intervention program that helps students understand their educational potential to succeed in college, and helps them complete their high school studies and undertake a program of post secondary education. Most of the students served by the Talent Search project at WCU are the first generation of their family to enroll in college, and many come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
The Talent Search program at WCU serves 900 students attending 15 schools in Cherokee, Clay, Jackson, Graham, Macon and Swain counties, as well as the Qualla Boundary. The program identifies students at the seventh grade level and follows the same group through graduation from high school. A recent survey indicated that 95 percent of the program’s participants graduate from high school, and 70 percent or more enroll in post secondary education, Murdock said.
Western’s Upward Bound Math and Science Program also focuses on providing support to promising high school students. Through this program, which began in 1991, students interested in mathematics or science are motivated to pursue their academic interests by spending six weeks during the summer at WCU doing environmental research. Directed by Ron Huff, the program selects 55 students per year from eight Southeastern states.
During the program, students work in small groups engaged in environmental research. “The students reside in university residence halls where they experience six weeks of college life while they design and implement scientific projects and present their findings to peers and the public in a campus symposium,” Huff said. An evaluation of program performance has shown that 86 percent of these students attend college and 67 percent major in a mathematics or science related area.
While the Talent Search and Upward Bound programs work to help get students through high school and into some type of post secondary education or training, the third TRIO program at Western, Student Support Services, provides assistance to those students who attend WCU.
The Student Support Services program works with some 250 Western students, helping to facilitate the transition to higher education. The program provides academic, career and personal counseling, tutoring, academic advising and mentoring. Directed by Carol Mellen, it also provides services for students with disabilities. All services are offered free of charge.
The primary focus of Student Support Services is to provide eligible students with the support they need in order to succeed academically, Mellen said. “The bottom line is that we want students to graduate. We want to help them be successful,” she said.
For more information about these programs, contact Carol Mellen, Student Support Services, at (828) 227 7127; Todd Murdock, Talent Search, at (828) 227 7137; or Ron Huff, Upward Bound Math and Science Program, at (828) 227 7158. Internet sites for the programs may be accessed by clicking on the “Life on Campus” button on Western’s homepage, at www.wcu.edu.