SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - More than a million dollars in federal funding has been approved to continue a program that helps disadvantaged students at Georgia Southern’s Armstrong campus.
It is harder to get through college than to get to college, especially for the first person in a family to go.
“By us being first generation, we don’t have family members who say now it’s time for you to do your financial aid or make sure you have the right classes,” said Wanda Lyons
But there’s a program at Georgia Southern’s Armstrong campus that serves as that family, Trio Student Support Services, which offers guidance to students facing specific challenges.
“Those who are first generation, those who are low income and those who have disabilities, that’s what we’re here for. We are not the only resource, but we can guide them toward resources that the university offers,” said Corina Ackerson-Jones, Director, GSU Trio Student Support Services.
Michelle Villanueva entered the Trio program a year and a half ago.
“Since then it’s like being part of a family. I can really rely on Ms. Jones and my peers. They’ve been here for me for everything.”
And she says it’s a big reason that she is now months away from completing her degree.
“It has helped me personally, financially and academically as well.”
“We give them financial literacy workshops, we help them with FAFSA. We also offer free tutoring, we offering academic advising,” said Ackerson-Jones.
“The best thing is we have a success coach who guides us through from the beginning when we start Trio until we walk across the stage.”
In previous more socially free years, the program coordinated visits to graduate schools and a community service trip to Puerto Rico.
“I learned so much and and just felt like I was helping out with a good cause.”
And those trips will be possible in future years with the recent announcement that Southern’s Trio grant was renewed with $1.2 million in federal funds over the next five years.
“We were really blessed and our grant was successful and we will be here at least another five years.”
And they will continue to help students who might have been the first in their family to go to college.
“I’m 62, so that’s why I’ve had experiences in college I never thought I would have. I have an 82-year-old mother that is so excited about me graduating.”
But because of Trio, won’t be the last.
“I have three younger siblings - 12, 11 and 10. I do take pride in my education, especially, I am a role model to my family and also to my peers.”
Part of the grant will be used to market and promote Trio, because the program is not allowed to recruit high school students and can only meet with potential participants once they are enrolled at Southern.