Students qualify for the TRIO program if they are first generation college students, have a disability or fall below a certain income level. Coming two days early gave these students the chance to learn about the expectations of the TRIO program and to meet their TRIO advisors, mentors, pick up their books, locate their classrooms and register for financial literacy courses all before their first day of classes.
“TRIO has helped me so much in so many ways. I got a head start on making friends and understanding campus. I have great advisors and mentors who help me when I need it. Everyone is supportive and there is no way I would’ve made it through my first few weeks without them,” said Audah Jones, a Bridge program participant and anthropology and sociology major at the University of Montana Western.
The TRIO program has offered a first year program since 2011 that consists of workshops covering all aspects of how to be a successful college student. This year, in order to further meet student needs, the Montana Western TRIO staff decided to launch their first TRIO Bridge Program event to help familiarize the students with the campus before the first day of class.
TRIO representatives were thrilled with the response to this first TRIO Bridge program.
“When 40 students responded they were coming, the staff team was excited to welcome them and launch the program,” said Jeanna Meier-Francisconi, a TRIO advisor.
After a morning spent moving in with the help of staff members, students and families were welcomed by their future advisors and student mentors. In addition to communal meals and team building exercises, the Bridge Program helps to connect the incoming first year students to Montana Western.
TRIO students also took a financial literacy course, testing their knowledge and getting information about their loans, grants, refunds and even credit scores. One of the most significant challenges that incoming students face is understanding their financial aid packages and how to make smart decisions about the types of loans they accept. TRIO financial literacy specialist, Gloria Janus, also met with students to schedule their first one-on-one meetings.
Nicole Nygren, a TRIO advisor who is also in charge of the mentoring program, worked with five student mentors to plan a series of activities to help the students connect with the campus community, including a scavenger hunt to help the new students find their classrooms and other resources, a pizza party, a volleyball game and activities on the tundra.
Upon the TRIO Bridge program’s conclusion, the participants volunteered to help other students move into the residence halls.
“The opportunity for the TRIO attendees to volunteer and help others was a way of paying forward the information and assistance they had received during the program,” said TRIO advisor Rob Micken.
The staff and students who participated in the Bridge program would like to thank donors Pioneer Federal Savings & Loan for their support of the program and Barretts Minerals for their sponsorship of the TRIO mentor and team activities to be held throughout the academic year.
The overwhelming response and success of the program will begin a new tradition for TRIO.
As Micken puts it, “it is about empowering students.”