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Students praise programs boosting first-generation college students' success

February 26, 2001

More than once, the Austin Peay State University students voiced the same message: "If it weren't for these programs, I probably would not be earning a degree."

Several students shared their stories during TRIO Day, held Feb. 21 in the Clement Building lobby. TRIO is a nationwide effort to help low-income, first-generation students benefit from a college education, and program activities are funded through grants from the U.S. Department of Education.

APSU has five TRIO programs: High School Upward Bound, Veterans Upward Bound (VUB), Tri-County Upward Bound, Student Support Services and the Educational Opportunity Center (EOC).

"Coming Together, Keeping Together and Working Together" was the theme of TRIO Day 2001, which kicked off with remarks by Dr. Sherry Hoppe, APSU president, and the reading of a proclamation by Clarksville Mayor Johnny Piper. Piper said the TRIO programs brought nearly $1.3 million in federal funds to the University and serve 2,000 students each school year.

While staff of the TRIO program were recognized during the event, the students were the main focus.

"Words can't describe how much Upward Bound has helped," said James Poindexter, a Clarksville resident who was an Upward Bound participant while attending Clarksville High School and is now a participant in Student Support Services.

An APSU student, Poindexter is majoring in computer science and mathematics and plans to eventually get his doctorate. "They gave me encouragement and pushed me to do more in my life. I met people of different backgrounds, took trips and attended cultural events. It opened my mind to a lot of things."

Bobbi Jane Gerard, a student worker and participant in the Educational Opportunity Center, described herself as a non-traditional single mom who wouldn't be able to go to college if not for the EOC. "They helped me realize I was not the only non-traditional student on campus."

Hilda Irizarry, a full-time APSU student majoring in public management, said VUB made it possible to return to college after a lengthy military career. "They gave me hope that I can achieve my goals," she said.

Another veteran, Maurice Carrier, is a current VUB participant and will enroll at APSU to major in public management. "I retired after 20 years service in the Army," he said. "As a recruiter, I saw veterans struggle with the first year of college. They can have a hard time adjusting from military to college life.

"With the VUB program, I received extra help in math, English, time management courses. Whatever I needed, they had it."

Calypso Trujillo, a senior communication major and participant in the Student Support Services program, said she will be able to realize her dream of being the first of her siblings to graduate. "The program has given me a range of benefits to reach my goals."

For more information about these programs, telephone 6142.