Program works alongside first-generation students

With the increase in first-generation college students on campus, TRiO is a program designed to serve those students by being a resource to them academically, financially and even socially. TRiO began in September 2015 when APU recognized a significant peak in underrepresented students, both first-generation and low-income.

According to TRiO Director LaTesha Hagler, 2011–13 statistics show that first-generation students made up about 25 percent of the institution’s population. With the expectation that this number will grow, TRiO has built upon its resources and has plans to continue to do so in the near future.

The program allows for 140 undergraduate students who identify as first-generation to take part in opportunities like academic success coaching, faculty and peer mentoring, financial support and financial and economic literacy. TRiO students are also given the privilege of participating in a number of school-wide events, like the High Sierra retreat to give them insight of what a semester would be like outside of APU.

“I have been able to go to Israel with TRiO,” said A’lea Render, a junior cinematic arts major. “The bonds and relationships formed during that time are unbelievable.”

As a junior, Render is not only a TRiO participant but a mentor, too. The mentorship interaction creates a space for TRiO students to talk about their experiences and voice any of their concerns. It seeks to increase their validation and show them exactly why they matter on campus and in the world.

“I truly believe that if we fail to support the marginalized students on this campus, we are going to fail to retain them,” said Jennifer Godoy, the graduate assistant for TRiO’s first-year and sophomore students.

TRiO increases retention, academic standing and graduation rates for first-generation students through various workshops and privileges granted to them through their involvement. These workshops address topics like the importance of good credit or how to properly fill out the FAFSA, and are open to both students and their families. Additionally, students get help putting together their four-year plan and are granted priority registration and tutoring if needed.

“Sometimes students feel like they’re classified or they’re stereotyped as being low-income or first-generation, but we take value in that,” Hagler said.

Due to the program’s success and its current waiting list, Hagler hopes to see more TRiO programs in the future. Because this program is only for undergraduates, Hagler wishes to have a Magnar program where graduate students can be supported, too. In addition to these, she also wants to see an Upward Bound program come to life.

TRiO has partnered with other offices on campus that also support the needs of first-generation students. During New Student Orientation, TRiO hosts workshops to bring awareness to the significance of first-generation students. They also collaborate with the Student Center for Reconciliation and Diversity (SCRD) to create a sense of unity among their participants.

“First-generation students have a unique story, and their reality differs from the majority of students that actually exists here at APU,” Hagler said.

TRiO is intentionally creating an atmosphere for first-generation students to feel secure, welcomed and needed on campus. TRiO is currently located in the Undergraduate Academic Success Center in front of One Stop.