TRiO program offers students a support net for financial aid, classes

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UNM-Taos student Paulina Estrada Oaxaca describes the TRiO Student Support Services program as "the best for her."

"They have advised me in everything since my first day of college," she said. "Thanks to the TRiO advisors, I completed scholarship applications, received over $3,000.00 in scholarships and decided which classes were the most helpful for me. Now I have a work-study position as an assistant to the kind TRiO advisors."

Estrada Oaxaca is pursuing an associate's degree in liberal arts with a focus in social and behavioral sciences.

Ruben Varela, vice president of the UNM-Taos Student Government, also credits the program with helping him apply for scholarships and choosing which classes to take.

"TRiO was instrumental in helping me transfer to NMSU, where I will start next semester," Varela said.

UNM-Taos received a TRiO-SSS grant in September 2015.

"However, TRiO programs emerged from the Higher Education Act of 1965," said Avelina Martínez, Program Manager for the UNM-Taos TRiO Student Support Services. "The SSS Program has been serving students at colleges throughout the United States since 1968."

The term TRiO represents the original three federal educational opportunity programs: Upward Bound, Talent Search and Student Support Services.

Currently, the UNM-Taos TRiO-SSS grant serves 170 degree-seeking students.

"Our mission is to increase the retention, transfer and graduation rates of TRiO-SSS participants by engaging them in a student-centered environment and teaching them strategies to navigate college more skillfully," Martinez said.

To participate in the program, students need to be fully admitted to UNM-Taos and have taken their placement assessments.

"Once these steps are complete, they can contact us by e-mail or phone to understand the eligibility requirements and application process," Martínez said.

The program helps students get access to financial literacy education, college tours, cultural events, workshops, and other activities that empower them to thrive in higher education.

"During our advising sessions, we create graduation plans that include short-term and long-term goals," Martínez said. "We discuss UNM-Taos degree requirements, transfer requirements to four-year colleges and the students' career interests."

Over the past two years, the TRiO advisors have assisted students in learning how to create competitive scholarship applications. This has resulted in them receiving over $68,000 in grants and scholarships.

"We have also traveled with our students from northern to southern New Mexico visiting four-year colleges like the University of New Mexico, New Mexico Tech, New Mexico Highlands University, and the Institute of American Indian Arts to learn about transfer processes and bachelor's programs," said Bella Rodríguez, senior advisor for the UNM-Taos TriO-SSS Program.

On the local campus, the program leads a collaboration with the Center for Academic Success and Achievement and the library to make a series of workshops available to the students. Since 2016, TriO has offered over 30 workshops on topics like library research skills, stress management, cover letters, resumés, interviewing skills and Banking 101, presented by Centinel Bank, among others. They have served 224 attendees.

"Since our inception in the fall of 2015, over 16 percent of UNM-Taos degrees awarded have been to TRiO-SSS participants," Rodríguez said.

The faces behind TRiO

Originally from San Luís Valley in Southern Colorado, Avelina Martínez has 16 years of experience in higher education. She earned a Master of Arts in Leadership Studies from the University of San Diego and a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of New Mexico.

Bella Rodríguez is from the Island of Enchantment, Puerto Rico, and has raised her family in the Land of Enchantment for the last 18 years. She has over 14 years of experience at UNM-Taos. She earned an Associate in Human Services from UNM-Taos and a Bachelor of University Studies with an emphasis in Spanish, Health Education and Sociology from UNM.

A success story

Gina Córdova graduated with a certificate in Human Services and an associate's degree in liberal arts from UNM-Taos in the spring of 2016. She transferred to New Mexico Highlands University last fall and is now pursuing a bachelor's degree in social work.

She also earned the MANA del Norte Scholarship and PTK NM All-State Academic Team Scholarship.

"Her long-term goal is to earn a Master of Arts in social work and have a career serving youth and families as a social worker," Rodríguez said. "While she was at UNM-Taos, Gina held a leadership position in Phi Theta Kappa and helped implement a clothing drive to provide resources to families in need. We are so proud of her!"

"TRiO-SSS looks forward to working with motivated degree-seeking students to help them navigate UNM-Taos," Martínez added. "We are the on-campus support system. We are here to help you!"

To find out more about the program visit http://taos.unm.edu/home/trio-sss/ or call (575) 737-3776 or e-mail taostrio@unm.edu.

TRiO-Student Support Services is located at the Student Success Center, Padre Martinez Hall, Suite 140, at the UNM-Taos Klauer Campus.

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