By: Nakya Harris, Editor-in-Chief
Because of the effort to improve the experiences of first-generation students, Georgia Southern University was announced as a ‘First-Gen Forward’ institution last year.
One resource in particular named TRIO, gains much of the spotlight when talking about effective programs for first-generation students. TRIO is a $1 million grant issued and funded 100% by the Department of Education for five years. GSU received its first grant in 2015. 140 students can benefit from this opportunity. In order to be in this program, students must be first-generation, low-income, and/or disabled.
Unfortunately, TRIO is only provided on the Armstrong and Liberty campuses. The Armstrong and Liberty campuses were awarded the grant funds for the program; however, the Statesboro campus was denied. Even though two out of three Georgia Southern campuses were awarded, students on the Statesboro campus cannot receive the same privilege of utilizing TRIO.
Corine Ackerson-Jones, director of TRIO student support services on the Armstrong campus, says that the mission of this program is to support students academically and financially. Furthermore, TRIO service attendants are there to help students enroll in the university and help them graduate.
“We offer free services to them such as tutoring, mentoring, academic coaching, and financial literacy workshops,” Ackerson-Jones said. “The biggest thing is that we are advocates.”
Leslie Harris, the former director of TRIO on the Statesboro campus and the current first-generation program specialist on the Armstrong campus says it is important for her to be present on campus to let students know that they have an advocate. She is currently in the process of helping the department implement initiatives for first-generation students.
“One of the things that we are working on is creating a first-gen landing page,” Harris said. “It will highlight important campus resources such as TRIO, career professional development, and other key resources that first-gen students need and may not know about.”
On campus, there are about 150 faculty and staff who are classified as first-generation college graduates. Ackerson-Jones said those professors should make it known that they also had to start somewhere. She believes that it will calm the nerves that first-generation students may have on the first day of classes.
First-generation student, Tyquavious Hill, is a senior at GSU. He was a part of the TRIO program for almost three years. He is one student who suffered from the TRIO program loss on the Statesboro campus. When asked if the university is trying its best to help first-generation students on the Statesboro campus, he replied yes but not enough.
“There are over 700 first-generation students attending Georgia Southern,” Hill said. “Half of them do not even have any knowledge of their status as a first-generation student, let alone know what that even means. Georgia Southern should work harder to inform students about what being a first-generation student means and host events on campus that will educate them about this.”
Similarly, Ackerson-Jones and Harris agree with Hill. Ackerson-Jones feels as though the university should have more empathy and understanding of the battle when it comes to being a first-generation student. She adds that every student is different and there should be accommodations for that.
One of the slogans that are used within the TRIO program is “TRIO works”, Ackerson-Jones said.
“Looking into programs such as TRIO or even the counseling center can have a lasting effect on a student’s academic, financial, and life success,” Hill said.