Four Students Receive Trio Awards For Reading, Writing... and Heart

Published: April 05, 2006 | Read Time: 6 minutes

The Student Support Center at Southern Utah University held its annual TRIO Celebration this spring awarding four students special achievement awards and $200 scholarships.

In support of a national commitment to provide educational opportunity to all Americans, Congress established a series of programs to help individuals upon entrance to college, to overcome financial/class/social/cultural barriers, and then to go on to graduate and participate more fully in economic and social life. These programs are collectively referred to as TRIO, because originally there were three programs. After 30+ successful years, there are currently seven TRIO programs serving students from middle school through graduate school. In 1986, Congress proclaimed a National TRIO Day.

“And so, Student Support services was born,” Lynne Brown, director of the Student Support Center, says. She reports that, currently, there are nearly 2,000 TRIO programs nationwide serving 700,000 students. In Utah, 25 programs serve about 8,000 students.

But, upon hearing the testimonies of the students, and comments about them from the staff at the awards ceremony, one realizes there is more to the TRIO program than just academic counseling. Dean O’Driscoll, director of SUU’s Marketing Office, concurs. “Reading and writing are very important, but so is focusing on the individual as a person.”

Honorees are chosen by the Student Support staff based on their positive attitude, academic progress and exemplary citizenship. This year’s four winners are:

Mindy Alderman, a senior Art major from Kanab, UT.
Kyle Bell, a graduate from Greenwich, UT.
Arturo Soriano, a junior Business major from Enoch, UT.
Shannon Tanner, a senior Sociology major from Cedar City, UT.

Mindy Alderman had never been in a regular classroom and knew little about the tools needed to complete the classes before her. She was diagnosed with a mild case of Autism as a child, making it difficult to stay in a regular classroom. Her mind would work hard to recall all of the information it was gaining, but could not retrieve it very well. As a new student at SUU, Mindy found the help needed to overcome her trials and obtain the skills she needed. “I went to the Student Support Center for help,” she says, “and found a group of people who understood my challenges and went to work to meet my needs as a student.” She thanks the Student Support staff, especially Carmen Alldredge, Coordinator of Student Disabilities Servicies, for all of their hard work in making her dreams come true.

Kyle Bell is the youngest of five children who grew up on a small farm. He struggled greatly with school and received poor grades while attending high school. This left him without the desire to continue his education by attending college. He worked hard pouring concrete in Nevada for $6/hour until one day he decided he wanted more. After taking the ACT, test he was admitted to SUU. The Student Support Center helped him apply for assistance from Vocational Rehabilitation which provides tuition and fees for students with learning disabilities so they can spend more time at school and less time worrying about the hardship of finances. During the past six years Kyle feels that the Student Support Center staff treated him like their own child. “I will never be able to thank them enough for what they have done for me,” he says. “Not only did they help me with school, but they taught me important lessons in life, one of which is to never give up.” Kyle is now a police officer for the Hurricane City Police Department and says that he is the only officer in the department with a bachelor’s degree.

Arturo Soriano is the oldest of four children and the first one to attend college. When he came to SUU he did not know what major to choose. He was always interested in how numbers and interest rates worked and how people can profit from this knowledge. In high school he never took any advanced math courses which put him at a disadvantage when he began college. He had to start with the lowest math course and work his way up. When he began to take math classes he was introduced to the Student Support Center. Arturo says, “Thanks to the Student Support services, I was able to pass these math courses with honorable grades, and most importantly, I had the support of people who care about their students’ success.”

Shannon Tanner is a single mom who has endured the deaths of a baby to SIDS, her mom a year later (at the young age of 45) to a heart attack, and the death of her 35-year-old husband to cancer just a month before their daughter was born. Unable to focus on school, she remarried due to loneliness and being overwhelmed. After having two girls with her new husband, Shannon realized that she and her girls could not any more emotional and sometimes physical abuse from her husband, so she divorced. She had been working at the same job for 14 years and knew that she had gone as far as she could with that company and would never be able to take care of her girls on what she was making. She started looking for help to get back in school and was guided to the Student
Support Center. “The best thing I ever did was walk through that door,” she states. She felt that no matter what problems arose, the Student Support staff was there for her. They determined how to help her in her college career so that she could succeed. “My girls have learned how important it is to get a good education,” she says, “I am overwhelmed and thankful that there are programs like Student Support services to help people like me who feel that they aren’t capable or smart enough to attain a college education.”

“Although all of our students in the program are committed and achieving everyday, we chose these four to honor, as they especially emulate what TRIO is all about,” Brown says. “We want to say ‘Thank you’ to them for making this program so successful.”

University President Steven Bennion, added on TRIO Day, “I always come out of this meeting a little bit off the ground.” Emphasizing that education is an interpersonal process, he adds, “To be a positive learning environment, one does need the emotional support as well as the cognitive. So many things today are high-technology. The TRIO program just further proves that we need the ‘high-touch’ to go with the high-tech.” As someone who nearly quit grad school over his fear of math--if not for the help of a tutor--President Bennion commended the Student Support staff, commenting, “If we could clone your caring dimension, the University would be the better for it.”

An estimated 2 million TRIO students have graduated from college, including well-known people like Bertice Berry, author; Congressman Henry Bonilla; and ABC News correspondent, John Quinones. SUU’s TRIO program has been an invaluable program to more than 3,000 students since its incorporation at the institution more than 20 years ago.

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