Celebrating students, community and educational equity at TRIO Day

by Michelle Saport  |   

Trio students attend MJ Pittman's Simple Money financial literacy workshop in the den during the TRIO Day celebration in UAA's Student Union.
Assistant Director of TRIO Pre-College Programs Jessica Delgado speaks during the TRIO Day celebration in the UAA Student Union.
TRIO students perform during the TRIO Day celebration in the UAA Student Union.
Isabelle Carig and TRIO studnets attend ttend MJ Pittman's Simple Money financial literacy workshop.

Scenes from 2024 TRIO Day at UAA (clockwise): TRIO students attend MJ Pittman's Simple Money financial literacy workshop in the Student Union den;  Assistant Director of TRIO Pre-College Programs Jessica Delgado speaks during the celebration; MJ Pittman speaks with TRIO student Isabelle Carig; TRIO students perform during the event. (All photos by James Evans / University of Alaska Anchorage)

UAA joined hundreds of colleges and universities across the country to celebrate TRIO Day on Friday, Feb. 23. The annual event recognizes students, staff, educators and community supporters across all TRIO programs, a federal initiative that launched 60 years ago to support educational opportunities for first-generation and low-income students.

UAA's slate of TRIO programs includes two pre-college offerings (Upward Bound and Educational Talent Search) and two college offerings (Student Support Services and the McNair Scholars Program) that serve over 800 students with a combined staff of only eight people.

Isabelle Carig, a West High School senior who received one of this year's TRIO Trailblazer awards at the celebration, discovered the transformative power of TRIO during her sophomore year. "They were doing presentations in all of the classrooms, and I thought it was just so amazing that there was a program that could help me figure out how to get to college, how to pay for it and other things like that. I've had so many experiences that I wouldn't have had otherwise, and I've gotten to explore my full potential."

Through TRIO, she's had the opportunity to participate in college preparation activities, explore different universities, grow her leadership skills and receive tutoring for writing application essays. She credits her involvement in the program with helping her become a finalist for the competitive QuestBridge program that offers recipients a full four-year scholarship and financial aid package to attend one of 54 prestigious colleges. For the 2023 program, fewer than 7,000 students advanced as finalists out of 20,800 applicants, and only one-third of finalists matched as recipients. "Unfortunately, I didn't get the scholarship, but I made it a long way. I feel like even having the opportunity was incredible because I never thought someone like me could possibly be picked out of that many students to become even a finalist."

As a finalist, Isabelle could apply for free to her pick of participating colleges. While she's  awaiting admissions decisions, she already has a few ideas for potential careers. She hopes to give back and help others as either a nurse or TRIO advisor — maybe even both. If she opts for the latter, she'll be among the many TRIO alumni paying it forward by returning to work for or support the programs, including MJ Pittman, a TRIO alum from Texas and CEO of Simple Money Academy who hosted a financial literacy workshop for students and delivered the keynote address during this year's event. At UAA, five out of eight TRIO employees are first-generation college graduates and two are TRIO alums.

In the meantime, the 4.0 student has plenty of extracurriculars keeping her busy: participating in the National Honor Society, Health Occupation Students of America, Filipino Club, medical academy, DanceWest, choir and varsity cheer at West High, as well as singing in her church's choir, interning at Providence Alaska Medical Center, dancing with the Filipino Community of Anchorage Alaska troupe and working at the airport.

"TRIO does have an impact, not only on our students, but in the community," said Jessica Delgado, assistant director of UAA's TRIO pre-college programs and a three-time TRIO participant. She noted TRIO's positive effect on student performance across the Anchorage School District for key metrics like high school completion, going from high school straight to college and completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). "The work that we do is just not possible without the support from the community."

Explore UAA's TRIO programs.

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