Program for struggling students may lose funding

GVSU TRiO program participates in advocacy campaign

By Claire Fodell | 3/19/14 6:24pm

Brenda Garcia, a student at Grand Valley State University, didn’t always plan on going to college. She doesn’t think she would have made the choice to attend GVSU without TRiO.

The organization works to give first generation students, as well as those who meet a federal income requirement, the resources needed to go to college.

The 50-year-old program started showing up across the country when President Lyndon B. Johnson began his “War on Poverty” campaign. Recently, though, it’s started to lose traction.

Josh Brandsen, the associate academic director for the GVSU TRiOprogram, said that in recent months, politicians have been complaining that the War on Poverty programs have not made a difference on the economy of the country. TRiO program executives hope to show them otherwise.

Members of the organization are participating in a nationwide campaign to gain recognition from legislators and to share their stories of success.

“The main point is just to tell people, senators, congressmen, that TRiO has made a big difference for students,” Brandsen said.

Advocates, administrators and alumni of the TRiO programs took to social media yesterday with the hashtag #TRiONATION to spread the word about the program and to catch the eyes of politicians who don’t think the programs are worth the federal funding they require.

Some famous alumni of the TRiO program include Bernard Harris, the first African American astronaut to perform a spacewalk, and television talk show host Oprah Winfrey.

GVSU student Brenda Garcia is also an alumna of the TRiO program. Garcia said she is participating in the nationwide campaign because she believes in the positive impacts the program can have on people.

“The politicians sometimes want to just cut back on money, but they don’t realize that these programs are very special,” she said.

Garcia was recruited into the program in eighth grade and said she is thankful for the opportunities the program has given her.

“I’m not sure if I’d be in college without the program,” she said.

The GVSU TRiO program uses the Upward Bound model, which includes after-school tutoring, as well as summer programs, to assist students with learning throughout high school. The summer program for Upward Bound lasts for six weeks, and students stay in GVSU dorms. During the week, students take classes from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. to learn about the subjects that they will study the next year in school.

The program also offers advising to students about their options for college and how they will be able to pay for it. Garcia said these sessions really changed her opinion of college.

“I used to think only if you have money, you can go to college,” she said.

Garcia added that the summer program changed her life not only by teaching her new things, but by creating a support system of teachers and students that she could count on throughout high school and even today.

GVSU students who are interested in volunteering for the TRiO program as after-school tutors can visit the website at

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