Representing the Underrepresented: TRiO Programs

During my spring break, I went to lobby on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. I got the opportunity to go lobby for TRiO programs, which serve first-generation, low-income, and/or students with disabilities; I went with my sister Monica Madrigal, who’s a counselor for Student Support Services, and my two peers, Jackie Tovar-Bernal and Bailey Van Buren. We went along with Upward Bound and Talent Search staff as well. I, as well as my peers, got the opportunity to share our stories with congress-members.

These programs started off with Upward Bound which emerged out of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 in response to the administration’s War on Poverty and then in 1965 Talent Search was created as part of the Higher Education Act. In 1968, Student Support Services was authorized by the Higher Education Amendment and became the third in the series of education opportunity programs. By the late 1960’s, the term TRiO was used to describe these federal programs. Over the years, more programs have been added to expand and improve a wider range of services and provide more students who need assistance such as education opportunity centers, training programs for federal TRiO programs, Ronald E. McNair, Upward Bound Math and Science, etc. Because these programs are federally funded, it means that after their grants expire, they may or may not get funds again.

In preparation to go lobby on Capitol Hill, we attended conferences and meetings on what we needed to know and how to better prepare for our time on the Hill. We got to go lobby on Wednesday, March 27thand we had three meetings planned. Our first meeting was with our Congresswoman in the 26thDistrict, Julia Brownley’s office. The second office was for representative Paul Cook and our last meeting was in Congresswoman Katie Hill’s office. Each one of their staffers took the time to hear all of us out. Starting off with an introduction and what these programs are, we went on to talk about our stories and what TRiO means to each of us. 

For me specifically, I started off with Talent Search at Cal State Channel Islands in seventh grade until their funds were taken away. I was fortunate enough to join Upward Bound at the end of my freshmen year of high school and was there until I graduated. Through Upward Bound, I was fortunate enough to spend two summers at Cal Lutheran while being in high school and take college level courses. I was also able to go on over twenty college tours during my summers and spring breaks. Upward Bound also helped me with completing my FAFSA, SAT/ACT prep, personal statement help, AP test help, etc. After graduating high school, I had the privilege of applying to Student Support Services at Cal Lutheran and I got to attend their summer bridge program before I started college. Through that week, SOAR, I had the opportunity of meeting different offices as well as incoming students; so, I didn’t feel alone when I actually started school. Through Student Support Services, and TRiO programs in general, I have had the opportunity to gain leadership skills and serve as one of their student leaders.

TRiO programs have a special place in my heart and they will forever. I am the person I am today because of these programs. Having the opportunity to go to Capitol Hill, lobby and talk to all of these congress-members about what the programs mean to me and just even being able to do that amazes me. None of this would have been possible without all of the counselors and mentors I have met through this amazing program and movement.

All photos courtesy of author