The TRIO Program at Southeast is receiving a financial boost after a recent approval for an extra $20,000 to help students impacted by COVID-19.
TRIO Program director Valdis Zalite said Southeast requested the funding in early August to provide for students on campus who were financially impacted by COVID-19.
The request for the $20,000 allocation was supported by the Department of Education, according to Trent Ball, assistant vice president for Academic Diversity and Outreach.
This request was approved, Zalite said, and will help to offset students’ tuition or fees.
“We worked with the federal government to be able to use dollars that were not expended during the COVID time to provide more support for students,” Trent Ball said.
At Southeast, the TRIO program impacts approximately 200 first-generation and lower income students annually by providing advising, support, funding and graduate school counseling. It includes the McNair Scholars Program, which fosters research and support for underrepresented individuals to aid in future graduate studies.
Zalite said the administration hopes to provide funds to benefit an additional 30 students through Student Support Services with the extra funding, which will be applied towards students’ educational expenses. The funding will distribute approximately $650 to each student, which will appear in their financial aid award package.
While the shift to online work during the spring semester disrupted student support operations, Zalite said staff utilized technology to provide resources for students. As some of the program’s students graduated in the spring, he said TRIO utilized Zoom to connect and celebrate recent graduates.
“It was a tough scenario for some of our students, so our goal was to encourage them to look at it differently and to really feel special and really feel proud of their accomplishment,” Zalite said. “Meeting the extremely large goal of graduation, we wanted to make sure that was celebrated.”
At Southeast, TRIO has continued through digital means. Programs at universities across the country also quickly transitioned to this mode of delivery as COVID-19 restricted in-person meetings.
As director, Zalite said he’s extremely proud of the 30-year history of the TRIO program at Southeast, which was created in 1990 and awarded grant money in 1991. Much of the success is connected to academic support centers on campus and personal attention to students’ needs.
“We’re grounded on meeting the students, getting to know the students, and really understanding what their needs are. That all comes from having a relationship with the students,” he said.
Created nationally in 1964 as a trio of programs — Upward Bound, Talent Search and Student Support Services — the federal program has since expanded to include nine programs impacting disadvantaged and underserved students, according to the U.S. Department of Education.