Whatcom Community College is making significant strides in supporting diverse and underrepresented student populations through its TRIO Upward Bound Mentor Program. This initiative, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, aims to provide comprehensive and inclusive support and engagement opportunities for students who may be the first in their families to attend college. By expanding coaching programs, enhancing financial aid literacy, and offering targeted support, WCC is increasing student success rates and fostering a supportive community.
Dr. Luca Lewis, WCC’s Vice President for Student Services, emphasizes the significance of the TRIO program in supporting underrepresented students: “Whatcom Community College has made remarkable gains in increasing the success of our community’s diverse and underrepresented student populations, and more needs to be done.” The new TRIO grant builds upon the successful foundations of existing coaching and support practices, positioning WCC to effectively serve and graduate even more students.
The TRIO Upward Bound Mentor Program selects and trains current WCC students to serve as mentors for high school students participating in the Upward Bound program. These mentors, known as TRIO Upward Bound Summer Mentors, play a vital role in guiding and inspiring students through key steps towards college enrollment, including the admission process, meeting summer deadlines, and understanding financial aid options.
What sets this program apart is its emphasis on mentorship and individualized support. TRIO Upward Bound mentors engage with students on a one-on-one or small group basis, helping them identify their academic and career interests and capitalize on their personal strengths. This personalized approach allows mentors to provide academic coaching beyond traditional advising, equipping students with the necessary skills and resources to succeed.
To qualify for the TRIO program, students must meet specific criteria, such as being a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, working towards their first college degree, and possessing a high school diploma or GED. Additionally, students must either be first-generation college students, income-eligible, or have a documented disability or receive services through Whatcom Community College’s Access and Disability Services.
The TRIO program excels in connecting students with various funding and support programs available on campus. Adam Beals, the director for TRIO and support services, highlights their commitment to assisting students in accessing resources such as the veterans office, basic food resources, student life programs, and the TRIO program itself. By fostering these connections, TRIO ensures that students have a robust network of support to address their diverse needs.
As the director, Beals plays a crucial role in overseeing the grants that are central to the TRIO program. One such grant is TRIO S, which serves college students, providing them with tailored support throughout their educational journey. Additionally, the program offers the Upward Bound grant, specifically designed to support high school students, empowering them to pursue higher education. Through these grants, TRIO strives to create a seamless transition for students as they progress towards their academic goals.
The benefits of joining the TRIO program are manifold. Students receive personalized academic coaching and financial guidance, maximizing their financial aid options and helping them navigate the college process. Furthermore, the program offers free 24/7 online tutoring in over 300 subjects and organizes group trips to universities and off-campus events, creating a supportive and engaging community for students.
Alongside the TRIO Upward Bound Mentor Program, WCC hosts affinity clubs such as the Black Student Union, Black Student Unification, and Pride, providing spaces for students with shared identities and experiences to connect with one another. These clubs not only celebrate diverse cultures but also foster discussions and problem-solving for issues that specifically impact their respective communities. Through these clubs, students have opportunities for leadership and personal growth as they manage budgets and organize events.
The TRIO Upward Bound Mentor Program and affinity clubs work together to create a nurturing environment that supports students from diverse backgrounds. The mentorship aspect of TRIO provides students with valuable role models and resources, while the affinity clubs foster a sense of belonging and empower students to explore and celebrate their cultural identities.
As WCC continues to receive federal grant funding and expand its TRIO programs, more students will benefit from the extensive support provided by these initiatives. By targeting outreach, providing coaching and peer mentoring, and offering academic and career advising, WCC is committed to increasing retention, graduation, and transfer rates among systemically non-dominant students.
The TRIO program stands as a beacon of support and opportunity for first-generation, low-income, and disabled students. Through its comprehensive approach, Trio not only connects students with vital funding and support programs but also provides ongoing guidance and personalized coaching. By fostering a strong support system, Trio empowers students to overcome barriers, pursue higher education, and achieve their academic goals.