This spring, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s five TRIO programs are working together to support local schools in the community.
TRIO programs are federal outreach and systems designed to identify and provide services for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The programs are targeted to serve and assist low-income and first-generation college students and those with disabilities to progress through the academic pipeline.
The five programs cover the gamut, from working with middle schools (Talent Search) to high schools (Upward Bound and Upward Bound Math Science) to college students (Student Support Services) to adults trying to get back into college (Educational Opportunity Center).
TRIO programs have been on the UTC campus for almost 50 years. TRIO is not an acronym. It stands for the three original programs—Upward Bound, Talent Search, Student Support Services—that were part of it.
In normal, non-pandemic years, the programs would participate in a national TRIO day of service. Due to COVID-19 concerns, however, the programs are giving back to local schools through various service efforts.
Belinda Lee, director of the Upward Bound program at UTC, said she was planning on multiple service days of bringing snacks to the schools that her department serves.
“My target schools are Howard, Red Bank, East Ridge and Tyner High Schools” said Lee, who began working with Upward Bound in 2010. “We will be taking snack boxes to the schools that we serve so that we can show our appreciation to the teachers and the guidance staff at all of those schools. We will also be giving them informational flyers about the TRIO program.
Upward Bound, which services students in grade ninth through 12th, aims to increase the rate at which they complete secondary education and enroll in and graduate from postsecondary education institutions.
Lee and Upward Bound work closely with Twyler Boykin and the Upward Bound Math Science program. The basic premise of Upward Bound Math Science, which has been at UTC since 1996, is that it is based in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
“We’re structured just like the regular Upward Bound; we do a six-week summer program. We do an academic year component,” said Boykin, the program’s director since 2000.
“The students that we work with come from Brainerd and Howard High Schools, and those students are interested in pursuing STEM careers.”
Boykin said her unit’s service project would deliver snack boxes to teachers at those two schools.
“We thought that it would be good to adopt the schools that we already work in and to assist those teachers, since they’re the ones at school this year more than the students,” she said.
Melissa Laseter, program director of Student Support Services (SSS), planned to deliver gift bags as part of a “now and later” snack. She provided a breakfast assortment of doughnuts, coffee and juice to the teachers at Lakeside Elementary School on March 1, along with a snack bag for later in the day. Her division works directly with 200 students on the UTC campus. She recruited some of those students to put together the goodie bags with notes of encouragement. Each year, SSS chooses a different school to receive the special thanks.
Our program chose Lakeside Elementary School because we wanted to make sure that elementary school teachers were not forgotten,” she said. “Little cards are going in each bag that say, ‘You know what you do matters. The students you work with now become college students like us.’ It’s kind of a motivation for teachers to remember that they’re creating a college student in the long run.”
The other UTC TRIO programs are the Educational Opportunity Center (EOC) and Talent Search.
EOC provides counseling and information on college admissions to qualified adults who want to enter or continue a postsecondary education program. According to program director Keith Bridges, the
The program has assisted more than 21,000 participants, enrolled them in more than 217 postsecondary institutions across the country and collaborated with more than 100 agencies since opening in 1998.
Talent Search identifies and assists individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds who have the potential to succeed in higher education. Directed by Karen Vann, the UTC program provides academic, career and financial counseling to its participants and encourages them to graduate from high school and continue—and complete—their postsecondary education.