GCCC students mark National TRiO Day





Local students who participate in the Educational Talent Search and Student Support Services programs at Garden City Community College celebrated National TRiO Day on Saturday, with cake and punch followed by learning sessions about using social media tools to advocate for TRiO and a service project

At computer stations, students learned about using Twitter and Facebook for TRiO advocacy, and at another station, students learned to create videos talking about their experiences in the program modeled off a website, imfirst.org, where first-generation college students shared their stories.

"Most of the students we serve are first generation. Not all are, but most are," Shajia Ahmad Donecker, GCCC ETS advisor, said.

Since 1996, National TRiO Day has been celebrated to recognize the importance of its programs in preparing students from disadvantaged backgrounds to seek, pursue and excel at educational endeavors beyond the secondary level, and to increase awareness of the many ways TRiO programs contribute to the community through education.

Locally, the Student Support Services at GCCC serves 200 first-generation, low-income students, as well as students with disabilities, to encourage them to stay in college, obtain as high a grade-point average as possible, graduate from GCCC, and transfer to a four-year institution.

The ETS program serves 631 low-income and first-generation students in grades six through 12 in USD 457, and works with students to overcome class, social, academic and cultural barriers to higher education.

Rafael Uribe, 13, attends Kenneth Henderson Middle School. He said the TRiO programs have been a benefit.

"It teaches me all about the college life, what it's like, how to get scholarships. It's really good. It teaches me the steps to take to get into a good college," he said. "Right now, I'm trying to get into the aerospace engineering field. It would mostly be like building things. That's what I enjoy."

Gary Harley, 17, a senior at Garden City High School, said being involved in ETS has helped him prepare for college.

"Without TRiO, I wouldn't have gone on the college trips I've been on, and I wouldn't be thinking as seriously about college," Harley said. "I'd probably be in trouble if I wasn't in TRiO. I got involved and started looking at things differently."

Harley said TRiO, which he became involved with in eighth grade, helped him stay on a straighter path. Right now, he is looking to attend Kansas State University or Fort Hays State University in the fall and plans to major in business with a possible minor in kinesiology.

"I know a business degree opens a lot of job opportunities. I'm not sure what I want to do yet, but I definitely want to be physically active and physically involved," Harley said.

Kalen Savoy, 17, a senior at Holcomb High School, has been a tutor for students in the TRiO programs for about six months.

"It's a really good program," Savoy said.

Savoy tutors sixth-graders and is impressed with how smart some of the kids are, noting that on his first day, one boy was studying ACT test prep information and Savoy didn't take the ACT until this year.

"I enjoy helping kids with math because math comes easy. It's easy to explain it to them. And I really like when they get it, and it becomes easy for them, too," Savoy said.

After high school, Savoy said he is considering going to GCCC for two years and then on to a larger university. At this point, he plans to study engineering and minor in business.

Students who attended Saturday's TRiO Day celebration also participated in a community service project that involved a drive to send postcards to U.S. service members from the area thanking them for their service.

Martha Lisk, director of Student Support Services, said all the cards are going to a military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, where U.S. soldiers injured in Afghanistan and other places in the world are being treated. People could fill out a card at booths set up at GCCC with a personal greeting to service men and women.

Three hundred cards were preprinted. Of those, about 150 were filled out by people who attended the GCCC basketball games, Lisk said. The remainder of the cards will be filled out by students at GCCC.

The TRiO programs and students also were recognized at halftimes of the GCCC men's and women's basketball games on Saturday night.

Both ETS and SSS are federal programs under TRiO. ETS works mostly with sixth through 12th-grade students providing tutoring, career exploration, college visits, scholarship and financial aid assistance to help them get into college. The SSS program at GCCC works on helping community college students graduate and move on to the university level.

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