Northeast students see success through TRIO program

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by jamesc  6/9/2017 8:15:00 AM -- 

NORFOLK, NE – Entering college for the first time can be an overwhelming experience for any new student, but Northeast Community College is using a new hands-on approach to assist individuals who already face challenges in their lives before they walk through the doors.

“We have been experimenting with what really makes a student successful. It’s getting to personally know them, discover what they may specifically need and then advocate for the student to ensure they are either retained and/or complete their degree,” said Donna Neeman, director of the TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) program at Northeast.

The U.S. Department of Education awarded Northeast a five-year, $1.1 million federal TRIO grant to serve and assist low-income individuals, first-generation college students and individuals with disabilities to progress through the academic pipeline from middle school to post-baccalaureate programs.

At a meeting of the Northeast Board of Governors on Thursday, Neeman explained that Northeast is allowed to serve 140 students through its TRIO program. She said under federal guidelines, 2/3 of participants must be the first in their immediate families to attend college and are low income or are a student with a disability.

She said first generation students don’t always have the knowledge to navigate the initial process of attending college.

Many times, first generation students don’t know the questions to ask. Also, they could possibly be the bread winners in the family; and when they go away to college, their family doesn’t always know what to do. They are used to being a family unit and it is difficult when a student who has been successful with getting good grades and being involved in activities in high school is suddenly gone. It is nice to have that family support in a college setting through a program like TRIO.”

The Northeast TRIO program is structured around academic support that includes a College Readiness Boot Camp over the summer months that focuses on English and math; tutoring and supplemental instruction; academic transfer assistance and visits to four-year colleges; access to a free laptop or iPad; and a structured first-year (college) experience course.

“The first-year course has really been beneficial to help the students bridge their relationships with the TRIO advisors because the advisors co-teach the course with a faculty member,” Neeman said. “It’s been another opportunity to get face-to-face interactions with the students and make sure they are really understanding the requirements and college rigor that they probably weren’t used to in high school.”

In addition to the academic component, the TRIO program provides students with personal support, ranging from a financial literacy education workshop and assistance completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application to cultural field trips and the TRIO Club.

Neeman said the TRIO Club has been a rewarding experience for the students. One of the cultural events many of them attended was a performance of the Nutcracker ballet at Sioux City’s Orpheum Theatre. It was chosen as Neeman didn’t feel that many college students would attend a cultural event, such as a ballet, on their own.

“However, that is one part of the program I really advocate for…the whole student and making sure they are making friends. Attending an event like this will ensure they will be involved in activities and have friends, and more than likely, attend class, see their friends and study with one another in order to complete their courses. The TRIO Club has been a huge success.”

Amanda Nipp, vice president of student services at Northeast, said attending a cultural event is designed to be a motivating factor for TRIO students, not an alternative to program participation.

“Students in the program can’t decide to make going to an event, like the ballet, their own involvement in TRIO; they have to meet the other requirements in the program. While these types of events are very important in teambuilding, they are designed as incentives to remind students of all the important aspects that TRIO offers them while they are in the classroom,” Nipp said.

“I tell TRIO students all the time, it is what they make it,” Neeman said. “They can be as involved as they like to be in the other activities, but they have to come meet with us at least three times per semester and participate in at least two workshops.”

In addition to Neeman, the program has two advisors and a part-time employee. Neeman said students in the program this past year have become so comfortable with the TRIO support staff, they come to them with many questions; and staff directs the students to other college offices for additional assistance.

Following its initial first semester this past academic year, Neeman said she was pleased with the early results in seeing TRIO students work to succeed.

Two objectives were monitored; one aimed at raising the overall Northeast persistence rate of 65-74-percent among TRIO students. The goal was exceeded at 98-percent. In addition, the goal of increasing good academic standing (2.0 GPA or above) among the students was set at 75-85-percent. It was met and exceeded at 87-percent.

Students who participated in TRIO at Northeast said the program has assisted them in becoming successful as they navigate through college.

“If it was not for the TRIO program, I would not have had the tools to get my homework and studying done. I am more than thankful for the program,” said one student. Another said, “The TRIO program at Northeast Community College has opened so many opportunities to me that I never thought I would be able to do. TRIO has provided me with extra resources and mentors to be successful.”

Neeman knows well the importance of a program like TRIO in a student’s life. She was in a similar position as her students when she attended college.

“I don’t know if I would have graduated without my TRIO advisor. I tried to withdraw twice, but she wouldn’t let me.”

For additional information on TRIO, send an email to or call (402) 844-7736.



             PHOTO CUTLINE


Students in Northeast Community College’s TRIO program and their advisors attended a performance of the Nutcracker ballet this past December at the Orpheum Theatre in Sioux City, IA. TRIO is a federal program that assists low-income individuals, first-generation college students, and individuals with disabilities to progress through the academic pipeline from middle school to post-baccalaureate programs.

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