About 130 high school students associated with TRiO programs learned the organization’s history and their key role in its future.
The students participated in a two-day leadership conference, February 28-March 1, co-chaired by Arnie Smithalexander and Josh Brandsen, from Grand Valley’s TRiO Upward Bound office.
Smithalexander said students left the conference with homework to send an important message about TRiO to President Obama and others in Washington, D.C.
During the conference, students worked to develop key social media messages about the importance of TRiO and how it works to send students to college who otherwise might not have an opportunity to go.
On March 19, those messages will be sent via Twitter to @WhiteHouse using the hashtag #TRiONATION. Smithalexander said the messages can be simple success stories such as “TRiO is successful and I’m a part of it.”
She hopes to spread the news about the March 19 Tweet-a-thon to other TRiO offices and word spreads nationally. This year marks the 50th anniversary of when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act, part of Johnson’s “War on Poverty.” One of the outcomes of the act was establishing TRiO offices.
Keynote speaker Selene Ceja told students that TRiO has faced opposition from the start. “No one thought that low-income students could go to college,” said Ceja, who works in public policy for the Council for Opportunity in Education in Washington, D.C. “Since then, funding has been a challenge.”
Ceja told students they were the new advocates for the program.
“You can tell your own story,” she said. “With the right tools, stories have started a revolution, like the Arab Spring, using social media.”
Michigan State University Student Support Services (a TRiO office) students developed posters with the history of TRiO, famous alumni and how TRiO works to help conference participants develop their messages.