The Gorham location for TRIO at USM, located at 7 College Ave. / Kyle Mercier, Staff Photographer

By: Cayley Bowman, Staff Writer 

Four TRIO students have won a national competition. Patty Herbert, Amber Veilleux, Koos Mohamed, and Raha Daud were a part of a book club sponsored by Council for Opportunity in Education (COE), a non-profit organization that is dedicated to expanding college opportunities for students who are low income, first in their family to go to college, or who have disabilities. 

Within this book club, they read “Across That Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America” by John Lewis, while also hearing from public speakers. COE challenged it’s book club participants across the country to design a civic engagement project for their community.  

Herbert, Veilleux, Mohamed and Daud won the competition with a project designed to respond to today’s social injustices by engaging with students at a local high school. They did so by creating a program that provides a safe and welcoming environment for students to express their thoughts and thoughtfully listen to others. The project also included a poster that invited students to an open dialogue, encouraging them to “master your voice, educate, and advocate for yourself.” 

Since the four students won the competition, they were all invited to the 40th annual COE Conference in Atlanta, which is being held later this month. The four students will share their poster and their future plan for implementing the program. The advisors of the book club, who are very proud of their students, are Linda Freeman and Riko Bol.  

The entire TRIO program is very proud of their winning students.  

“We were all pretty excited when we heard the news and also very proud of our students,” says Terri Plummer, the director of the TRIO College Programs.  

It was not just the TRIO Program that was proud of the four students– the U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona gave the winning students a shoutout at the conference that was held. 

“All of you have done an outstanding job. Congratulations to you and everyone who participated for shining your light for the benefit of your communities,” said Cardona. 

Currently, there are 3,100 funded TRIO projects in the United States. The TRIO department knew that the competition could be challenging, but also that their group had worked hard and developed a strong project.  

“I don’t think we expected to win, but we knew we had a chance,” said Plummer. 

The TRIO department expresses that they hope to have more wins like this in the future, but not for the recognition. They hope to win due to the impact it has had on the students and the community. The students worked hard over the summer to develop a community engagement plan, grounded in what they were learning in their Good Trouble Book Club. During this, they learned more about themselves, each other, and the impact that their leadership will have on the community. 

“Winning the competition was only the recognition of their hard work and leadership,” Plummer said.  TRIO benefits through the recognition of their students.  

Plummer stated that the TRIO program and USM have pretty extraordinary students.  These students are not only high achieving, but are willing to give back to their community and “shine the light” (as Secretary Cardona said in his shoutout) for our future generations. 

Herbet, Veilleux, Mohamed, and Daud’s win has put Maine and USM on the map in the greater TRIO community, and the entire community could not be more proud or excited about it.


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