By: Mary Ellen Aldrich, Arts & Culture Editor

In addition to being exciting, college can sometimes be overwhelming, difficult, scary, and many other things. The one thing that is guaranteed for each student, however, is that college will present challenges in some capacity and degree. Whether those challenges are academic, social, personal or under any other umbrella, the fact remains that sometimes the best way to work through those challenges is to have some support from others. For me, TRIO Student Support Services (TRIO SSS) provides that crucial support and ever-so-important inspiration and encouragement.

TRIO SSS is a program that some may be heavily involved with, while others may not know it exists. It is a program that offers a bit of extra guidance and support to college students who are in a four-year program working towards their first bachelor’s degree. In order to apply for TRIO, students must meet one of the three eligibility criteria: be a first generation college student, have a physical, psychological or learning disability, or meet the income eligibility limit. I myself meet all three criteria.

However, TRIO is more than just something one signs up for. It is a community that teaches students a lot, while also providing students with some vital non-academic needs, such as self-confidence, a sense of belonging and a place to talk through the roadblocks and bumps that come up in life. In my experience, TRIO has provided me with a community of people who strive to do their best, who build eachother up, advisors who actively listen and genuinely care, helped me establish a feeling of self-confidence and reassurance in my own abilities and an amazing mentor who has now become one of my best friends.

Gail Minichiello, one of the TRIO SSS advisors, said that she became involved with TRIO because of the support she received throughout highschool and college. The college application process, as well as college itself, was rather overwhelming for Minichiello. Neither the high school or college she attended had a TRIO program, something which would have likely benefited Minichiello throughout her academic career.

“However,” Minichiello said, “there were many supportive people at my high school and college, so I wanted to pay it forward to other students.”

Minichiello now works with many students through TRIO SSS to help set, work towards and achieve goals through working with students individually on what they need most. In addition to advisors meeting with students on a regular basis, TRIO helps support students through teaching time management skills, study strategies, engaging students in TRIO Learning Communities, the TRIO Navigator program and much more.

For the duration of freshman year TRIO students can be paired with a TRIO Navigator. A TRIO Navigator is an upperclassmen who serves as a peer mentor to add that extra support for the student. My mentor, Beatrice Downs, has been an amazing encouragement to me. She has stood by me and been in my corner no matter what, she has exhibited a belief in me and my ability to succeed even when I doubt myself most, even if she couldn’t solve a problem she has always listened and offered some encouragement, or simply affirmed that yes, the situation does stink, and she can’t fix it, but she’s there to talk to. While she is no longer my mentor, she has remained as one of my greatest friends.

Downs benefited a lot from TRIO when she returned to college as an adult learner to earn her bachelor’s degree. For Downs, TRIO played a large role in her success.

“Having that extra support,” Downs said, “helped me achieve my dream of getting my bachelor’s. [And] the advisors helped me see that I could continue on to graduate school.”

TRIO helped Downs better establish her self-confidence and her advisor helped her work through the things that college, and life in general, threw her way.

“I’m thankful that TRIO SSS was there for me,” Downs said, “and I highly recommend students see if they can apply as well. [It was] one of the best decisions I made as an undergraduate.”

I would like to echo Downs in expressing gratitude to TRIO SSS, it has provided me with, and taught me, so much. From good friends, to academic skills, new approaches to tasks, a caring and helpful atmosphere with people who are always willing to listen and too much more to list. I believe that when I started at USM, where I was with many things my life, and how many things changed over the first year, really had me set up for some serious struggles in college. I see TRIO as one of the main reasons that I was able to face those challenges and come out of them not only in one piece, but feeling confident that I had succeeded.


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