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AWC to celebrate National TRIO Day

Virtual event will highlight program and alumni

Yuma, AZ (February 22, 2021) – Students in Arizona Western College’s TRIO programs will be participating in an upcoming TRIO Day Celebration to express their appreciation to the community for its support.

The virtual event will highlight the history of TRIO as well as alumni speakers. The celebration will be held via Zoom from 4 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, February 25. Those interested in attending should RSVP at to receive a Zoom link for the event.

For millions of low-income students who strive to be the first in their families to attend and graduate from college, a set of federally funded TRIO programs have made a world of difference in their lives.

For over 25 years, AWC has been the recipient of three TRIO grants that benefit both pre-college and college-level students. Two of the pre-college programs that are supported by those dollars at AWC are Upward Bound and Talent Search. The third program, specifically for college students, is Student Support Services.

Upward Bound (UB) works intensively with a small cohort of high school students to prepare them for higher education through various enrichment courses. Campus-based UB programs currently provide a total of 69 students with instruction in literature, composition, mathematics, science, and foreign language during the school year and summer. UB also offers mentoring and support as students prepare for college entrance exams and tackle admissions applications, financial aid, and scholarships.

“TRIO Upward Bound helped establish a foundation for me in my academic career,” said Robin Martinez, a past student from the program. “Without TRIO, I am certain that my educational experience would not have been as amazing and successful as it was.”

Martinez started in the Upward Bound program as a freshman at Parker High School. As a first-generation student, he said that higher education didn’t seem attainable to him until he became a part of the program. He is now pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Justice Studies at Arizona State University.

Martinez will be featured as one of the speakers during the virtual TRIO Day Celebration. Read more about his story here.

Talent Search (TS) works with a current cohort of 583 students. The program focuses on low-cost, early intervention for students deemed to have “college potential” in middle school and high school. TS students also receive information and assistance in applying for college admission, scholarships, and various student financial aid programs.

Angel Cruz, who will also be speaking during the celebration, is a product of the AWC Talent Search program. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Forensic Science from Grand Canyon University.

“TRIO Talent Search guided me, a minority first-generation student, on the path to college and prepared me for the job field. This program provided me with knowledge and resources that I share with my family even today. Genuinely, I would not be where I am without TRIO Talent Search. Today, I am completing my bachelor’s degree in forensic science and working in a lab.”

The Student Support Services (SSS) program (known as the KEYS program at AWC) is celebrating its 30th year at the college. The KEYS program serves 240 students per school year by offering academic support services including course selection, financial aid and scholarship guidance, career exploration, cultural enrichment, personal development and coaching, and assistance with graduation and transferring to vocational or university-level programs.

Another speaker during the celebration will be Yesenia Sanchez, a former student of the AWC KEYS program. After graduating from AWC with her associate degree, she went on to earn her Bachelor of General Studies degree in Social Behavior and Human Understanding from the University of Arizona and is currently working on her Master of Education degree from Northern Arizona University in Educational Leadership - Community College/Higher Education.

“My KEYS advisors motivated me to strive for higher learning,” she said. “Being a part of TRIO is the reason I continued working in higher education. I currently work for the SSS Teacher Prep Program at the University of Arizona College of Education. I want to inspire my students just like my TRIO advisors inspired and motivated me. I can definitely say that #TRIOWORKS!”

Background on the TRIO Programs

What is TRIO?

TRIO is a set of federally funded college-based educational opportunity outreach programs that motivate and support students from low-income backgrounds – including military veterans and students with disabilities. Currently serving nearly 760,000 students from middle school through post-graduate study, TRIO provides academic tutoring, personal counseling, mentoring, financial guidance, and other supports necessary to promote college access, retention, and graduation. TRIO students come from families that earn less than $36,000 a year and/or in which neither parent have earned a college degree. TRIO serves students of all racial and ethnic backgrounds. Currently, 34 percent of TRIO students are White, 33 percent are African American, 21 percent are Hispanic, 4 percent are Asian American or Pacific Islander, four percent are American Indian, and 1% are listed as “other,” including multiracial students. 

Where did TRIO come from?

The TRIO programs were the first national college access and retention programs to address the serious social and cultural barriers to education in America. TRIO began as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty. The Educational Opportunity Act of 1964 established an experimental program known as Upward Bound. Then, in 1965, the Higher Education Act created Talent Search. Finally, another program, Special Services for Disadvantaged Students (later known as Student Support Services), was launched in 1968. Together, this “trio” of federally funded programs encouraged access to higher education for low-income students. By 1998, the TRIO programs had become a vital pipeline to opportunity, serving traditional students, displaced workers, and veterans. The original three programs have grown to eight, adding Educational Opportunity Centers in 1972, Training Program for Federal TRIO programs in 1976, the Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement Program in 1986, Upward Bound Math/Science in 1990, and the TRIO Dissemination Partnership in 1998.

Why are the TRIO programs important?

The TRIO programs help first-generation, low-income students overcome social, cultural, and academic barriers to succeed in higher education by providing direct services and individually focused and intensive programming geared towards helping students navigate the college admissions and financial aid process. TRIO programs assist students in overcoming the obstacles they face as the first in their families to attend and graduate from college.

Michelle Thomas
Director of TRIO Programs
Arizona Western College
(928) 344-7763

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