Alexis Mercado and nearly 200 other students gathered at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln on Feb. 29 to celebrate National TRIO Day.
As a first-generation student from Madison, Nebraska, Mercado applied to the university’s TRIO program prior to his freshman year. Through participation in TRIO, Mercado has found a supportive community to answer questions, offer academic assistance and instill a sense of belonging.
“I believe in the TRIO program,” said Mercado, who is now a senior at Nebraska. “I wouldn’t be here without the opportunities it has provided me. It gives me a place to relax, be a student and talk about anything that’s going on.”
Mercado, who began his TRIO journey in Upward Bound, attended the National TRIO Day events to support the programs and was excited to bring the students he works with through the Educational Talent Search program.
For organizer Darwin Archie, the mission of the day is simple – to build connections. From speakers and sessions focused on the history of TRIO, advocating for its college access programs and building a network among TRIO students and alumni, Archie hopes participants walk away with a greater understanding of the giant family and support network that exists for every TRIO student and alumnus.
“Students think TRIO is smaller, but there are 3,100 programs nationwide,” said Darwin Archie, an academic outreach specialist in TRIO and coordinator of the National TRIO Day event. “TRIO stretches far and beyond to different levels. As a student in Upward Bound, I wasn’t aware of SSS. In SSS, I didn’t know about McNair—I want students to know what’s next and see that they are a part of something bigger.”
To demonstrate that bigger picture, numerous guests and alumni offered their insights and support for TRIO, beginning with Jeff Fortenberry. Next guest speaker Kadina Koonce, who serves as an academic advisor in the Explore Center, shared the impact of TRIO on her personal and academic journey.
“Without TRIO programs I can 100% guarantee I would not have my master’s degree today,” said Koonce. “A bachelor’s maybe, but without the holistic long-term support of that program, I like many others, would be another overlooked statistic from ‘that side’ of town. TRIO gives those that participate an opportunity to even the field and believe they can thrive, not only as college students but well-rounded adults.”
During the program, five students were honored with the “I am TRIO” award, which recognizes one outstanding student from each TRIO program for involvement and participation in the program, their local community and academic excellence.
Honored students include:
Phu Le, Regular Upward Bound
Sonoor Majid, Student Support Services
Merdie Mandungu, Upward Bound Math and Science
Maryam Naif, Educational Talent Search
A tribute honored the late Jimmi Smith, former director of the multicultural affairs office and director of TRIO programs in the early 1980s. Songs were led by TRIO alumnus Kevin Witcher and Reshell Rey, who attributes much of her career in Student Affairs to his mentoring. Smith was a staunch advocate for TRIO programs and previously led efforts for National TRIO Day, which until this year had not been celebrated since the mid-1990s.
Today there are more than a million students served annually by TRIO programs, including more than 1,400 students each year at Nebraska. Learn more about the program.