TRIO Program Provides Assistance To First-Generation College Students

For first-generation college students, college can be a daunting task. With no parent or sibling paving the way before them, students often have a hard time adapting to college.

That is why the TRIO program at Miami Dade College was createdto help students better acclimate to college life. TRIO is open to students who need tutoring, peer mentoring, academic advisement and  financial aid counseling.

”They accepted me with open arms,” said Tanisha Simon, a  student in the program, who aspires to be a nurse. “They didn’t judge me, but just wanted to help me.”

To be eligible for TRIO, students have to be a U.S. Citizen or permanent resident, be accepted for enrollment or currently enrolled at MDC, be a first-generation college student, need to be economically disadvantaged, must be seeking an associates degree, must have completed less than 30 credits and must have a minimum 2.0 GPA.  

Simon stumbled across the TRIO program when she followed her friend there one afternoon. She believes that TRIO was the reason she passed her classes that semester. When she didn’t understand something, she went to TRIO and there was  always someone there to help her succeed in her work.

“TRIO has made me want to be better, to be something, to be different from the rest of my family,” Simon said.

Students from different ethnicities congregate at TRIO to learn from each other. The TRIO program has an event called Tuesday Talk, where current students and alumni speak about financial issues and how to be smart with your money.

“This program is different from other TRIO programs in the country because it has a family dynamic, where both former and current students mentor each other on various topics,” said Carlton Daley, who has been program director of TRIO at MDC since 2006.

Daley, who has a master’s degree from Florida International University, knows firsthand the benefits of a college education.

“Students of TRIO have a higher graduation rate than Miami Dade College [students] as a whole and go on to be lawyers, nurses and teachers,” Daley said.

Graduates of TRIO often move onto four-year colleges, with many of them going to universities such as Tuskegee University, Florida A&M University and the University of South Florida, among others.

TRIO influences its students to get involved on campus, with some creating their own student clubs. One of those clubs is Minorities of the Future, a club of young minority males that support each other to ensure that they reach their potential. That is what Daley calls “seeking out excellence,” something he always shares with students to urge them to improve their future.

Ashley Polanco, who is pursuing a degree in sonography, took Daley’s advice to heart. She is president of Influential Ambitious Motivated Women (IAMW) at North Campus.

“TRIO was amazing. I loved it. It keeps you focused on school and studies. Everyone was always studying, always getting straight A’s,” Polanco said. “I had trouble picking my major, but because of the help I got there, I was able to finally choose a major.”

For students who plan to transfer from Miami Dade College, TRIO routinely does a summer college tour free of charge. Among the campuses visited: Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida A&M University, Florida State University, University of Central Florida and several others.

“Education is a great equalizer that helps you move outward in life,” Daley said.

For more information about the TRIO program, call (305) 237-1333. This story originally ran in The Lead, the student newspaper for the MDC High School Journalism Institute. The Institute is a six-week dual-enrollment summer program for students interested in journalism.