TRIO shines in the spotlight

Students speak about their paths to success

“What if [success] was something too vast to place into words — yet in seed form was something every student at Richland College can possess? Welcome to our TRIO village. In TRIO Student Support Services, we invite our Richland College students to live joyfully, laugh fearlessly and love taking responsible risks as a journey in the direction of their dreams,” said Anita Jones, director of Richland’s TRIO Student Support Services Program (TRIO-SSS).

TRIO-SSS is a federally funded grant program intended to aid and equip low-income students. On April 24, Richland hosted its annual TRIO Day in the Chronicle TV studio to share the stories of students who have proven that success is within reach. U.S. Rep. Colin Allred, District 32, spoke followed by four TRIO Achievers who shared their success stories. TRIO Achievers are students who have been recognized for transforming their lives through a partnership with Richland’s TRIO-SSS.

Dr. Kay Eggleston, the Richland president, provided a welcome.

TRIO members Brytha Nkrumah, left, Cedrick Munongo, Christian Lara, Felicia Keto and Executive Dean Becky Jones prepare to speak at the TRIO Day event in the  Chronicle TV  studio on April 24.

TRIO members Brytha Nkrumah, left, Cedrick Munongo, Christian Lara, Felicia Keto and Executive Dean Becky Jones prepare to speak at the TRIO Day event in the Chronicle TV studio on April 24.

“The federal TRIO programs are a set of educational opportunity programs established in 1964 that enable either first generation or low-income and underrepresented and special needs populations to earn college degrees,” Eggleston said.

She went on to explain that the Richland College TRIO Student Support Services program is part of a federal program through the U.S. Department of Education that serves more than 800,000 students across the country. TRIO provides academic tutoring, personal counseling, mentoring, financial aid assistance and other services to support students through graduation. The four TRIO Achievers then spoke to the audience.

“When I first joined TRIO, I had no idea of how to register for my classes, but they [TRIO] helped me,” said Felicia Keto, a Richland nursing-major who has two children and is originally from Togo.

It took Christian Lara seven years to complete his degree. During that time, he overcame personal battles including the loss of friends and relatives due to gang violence. With the support of TRIO, he made it to the finish line and will transfer to a four-year university in the fall.

“I’m here right now. I’m still striving. I’m still here succeeding. I’m still pushing forward,” Lara said.

Cedrick Munongo spoke next. He is from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He moved to the U.S. to pursue his dream of becoming a computer scientist.

“You know, college, it’s not easy but it’s not impossible,” Munongo said. “You know, so you can just try your best. You need to have a goal. You need to have something in mind. ‘Why are you here?’ That’s the question you need to [ask].”

Brytha Nkrumah was the last student speaker. She is originally from Ghana. Before coming to the U.S. she studied midwifery in Ghana and delivered babies. Nkrumah told her own narrative in a way only she could describe.

“Being a mother of two boys is not easy but I have a dream that I need to pursue. I’m fighting for a better future and so I’m struggling to get on my goal. So I would encourage everybody not to give up,” Nkrumah said.

She advised students take part in the program even if they believe a full education is not obtainable. Of TRIO Day she said, “I think it’s very exciting and it’s a great opportunity for us to share our stories with others but also partake in the program and then make use of [this] important opportunity too. So it’s good. I’m excited to be here.” For more information, www.richlandcollege.edu.