University of South Florida


USF News

Information and Inspiration Flow at USF’s First Annual TRIO Day

TRIO programs from USF,
Rollins, Palm Beach State, Edison State and Santa Fe Colleges, and Alabama’s Troy University take part in a “family gathering.”

By Barbara Melendez

     USF News

TAMPA, Fla. (June 25, 2014) – Leading a call and response cheer, USF Upward Bound Program Director Raymond Cabrera gets his students to respond to, “When I say TRIO, you say ‘Works!’” And right on cue, enthusiastic cheers go up.

Hundreds of voices were added to theirs as the first annual TRIO Day at USF unfolded last Friday.

Those dozens of bright red-shirted students around Cooper Hall last Friday – with “I Am TRIO” and “TROY” emblazoned in white across their chests, were among the nearly 250 who attended from TRIO programs at Rollins, Palm Beach State, Edison State and Santa Fe Colleges and Troy University in Alabama, for a day of solid information, encouragement and inspiration.

“TRIO is a family and we love to get together. So I thought, why not get everyone together for one big event,” Cabrera said. “We provide orientations and tours of campus when our students first come to USF, but this time, the activities focus on what life looks like as a USF Bull.That’s a mindset we are encouraging at every step along the way.”

Upward Bound, Student Support Services and other services for high school, college and graduate students comprise the Federal TRIO Programs.

“The students we serve must fulfill two requirements,” said Cabrera, “They must come from low-income families and have parents who have not graduated with a four-year degree. They come from all ethnic backgrounds and truly reflect our community’s multi-cultural makeup.”

USF’s Upward Bound program is one of 20 in Florida and 816 TRIO programs funded by the United States Department of Education around the country. Upward Bound is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and USF’s program is in its 49th year.

A Warm Welcome

Undergraduate Studies Dean Robert Sullins and Center of Academic Advising Director Jody Conway welcomed the students with words of encouragement.

“We think we’re the best school for many of you,” he said, as he highlighted USF’s reputation for offering many opportunities to do college-level research and the university’s resent ranking as 12th in the nation for patents.

Conway added, “The exposure you get opens up possibilities. We’re delighted to have so many students with us today.” Picking up on Cabrera’s emphasis on family, she said, “We build that relationship together and you’re here to see how you might fit into that family picture. We have a lot of opportunities here. If you can think it, we can help make it happen.”

The students heard presentations from USF Admissions and from the College Reach-Out and Student Success Services Programs that, respectively, promote college access and retention through counseling, tutoring and other supports.

Assistant Director of Admissions Malcolm Randolph joined Sullins in stressing USF’s high rankings and the university’s emphasis on research as well as the many study abroad opportunities. He also told the students about USF’s strong commitment to civic engagement and service projects.

Letting the students know that grades and test scores are only part of the admission equation, he said, “There are bridges to get to USF.” He explained that a variety of programs help prepare students to succeed in college, adding, “You have to work hard to use the opportunities.”

Affording College

A major consideration for every student is how to afford college. Financial Aid Associate Director Dameion Lovett gave a presentation that addressed that issue in depth.

Noting that there’s $160 billion in financial aid available across the nation, with $450,000,000 available to USF students, Lovett encouraged the students to meet application deadlines and not risk losing out on the money that is available.

To motivate the students, he pointed out that college graduates make $1 million dollars more over a lifetime than those who do not graduate. He also dispelled myths that only the best students receive financial aid. Decent grades, test scores and perseverance count.

Lovett shared the story of a student who devoted the equivalent of two weeks of full-time work to applying for scholarship money. “She earned $30,000 for essentially two weeks’ work,” he said. “Reach out to the financial aid office wherever you go to school. We’re there to help you in every way we can. When it comes to money, if you don’t ask, it could cost you money.”

“What I think makes one of the strongest impressions, is when the high school students hear from college students,” Cabrera said. “They get to hear from young people like themselves and ask questions.”

And that was the case during TRIO day.

The Inside Scoop

Upward Bound student Aliesha Hancock declared, “Upward Bound means bettering myself.” And her fellow Upward Bounder Antonio Elozar said, “Upward Bound opens your eyes to the possibilities and the TRIO program provides the extra steps you don’t think about.”

Not that long out of college themselves, a panel of USF graduates, a current student and some who were former TRIO students, spoke from their personal experiences about how they navigated through their college years.

USF Admissions Advisor Jay Barreto gave his “inside scoop” on the admissions process at USF, encouraging students to find a balance between work and play. Going to college took him out of a tough neighborhood in New York City. But after not taking school seriously and nearly flunking out an advisor told him, “If you don’t get it together, you’re going to go back to where you came from.”

That comment got his attention and he buckled down to get his degree and he went on to earn a degree in business from USF in 2012.

Winsome Nisbett who now works as an academic recruiter and advisor in the Office of Admissions, told her story about how being honest about her life in her scholarship application essays brought her a prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship.

“Don’t be ashamed to tell your story,” she said. “Put your heart into it,” adding that when foundations see how much you’ve overcome and how willing you are to work hard, “good things can happen.” From the U.S. Virgin Islands, where she spent three years in an Upward Bound program there, Nisbett earned a master’s degree in political science from USF in 2013.

Her colleagues Camara Silver, Chelsey Bevel, Ivy Box and Bobby Brown added their advice.

Silver, a graduate assistant and instructor with Upward Bound explained, “The financial aid office worked miracles every semester to make sure I could come back. You have to understand how much these support services mean; they’re very important.” From Rochester, New York, the Upward Bound Class of ’09 alumnus earned his bachelor’s degree from St. Leo University and is currently enrolled at USF in Africana Studies working on his master’s degree.

Some Learned the Hard Way

From St. Petersburg, Bevel graduated from USF this spring with a degree in mass communications and now works in enrollment management at the university. She talked about how much she came to love USF even though it was not her first choice. After her freshman year of getting involved in too many activities she said, “Once I realized how important being able to stay in college was to me, I started focusing on my schoolwork.”

Dormitory Coordinator Box had a similar experience and almost became overwhelmed with too many extra-curricular activities and being “more interested in my social life than academics.” She learned from a successful student who happened to be the student government president. “When I asked him how he was able to accomplish so much he told me he sat up front in every class and paid attention to everything the professor said.” This and asking questions to get clarifications of things he didn’t understand cut down on the time he needed to study and allowed him to hold down outside jobs as well. When Brown followed his example and limited her activities, life got easier.

Admissions recruiter Bobby Brown talked about his struggles with taking standardized tests. “Don’t let tests define you or your future as a student,” he told the audience. “Despite the struggle and lack of proper guidance from my high school counselors, I was still able to be successful at USF through the Freshman Summer Institute (FSI) which used to be a summer bridge program for students with academic needs.” Originally from Jamaica, Brown grew up in Lehigh Acres, Florida. He is a 2011 graduate of the USF College of Medicine’s athletic training program and he earned a master’s degree from the USF College of Education in curriculum and instruction in 2013.

A lunch break at one of USF’s newest dormitories was filled with animated conversations and time to meet new friends.

“We’re thankful to Juniper Poplar (dormitory) and Aramark (food service) for providing lunch to the students,” Cabrera said.“The experience allowed them to see how students spend a day on campus.”

Cabrera declared the day “a great success” and said, “The students especially enjoyed hearing from the student panel and getting real life advice from students who have been through the process.

“We wanted to stress the importance that not only is USF a great environment to come learn, but the community of people who make up our University are committed to seeing them succeed as well. I think they got it!”

About TRIO

TRIO is not an acronym. The program gets its name from the original three programs that now number seven in an overall program that works to expand educational opportunities “for all Americans, regardless of race, ethnic background, or economic circumstances.” Wherever there are barriers to higher education, whether class, social or cultural, TRIO works to help students realize their educational potential.

Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563