TRIO celebrates first-generation students


Photo by Devin Perry

by Taylor Williams, News Editor

Simpson honored and celebrated the success of its first-generation college students, faculty, and staff for National First-Generation Day on Nov. 8. 

The event was held in Black Box from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. TRIO, a student support service, hosted the event. Students were free to come and go from the event or stay and learn more about Simpson’s first-generation students. 

“This event is about celebrating first-generation students and their accomplishments for coming to college, which I am proud to be a part of,” said Barbra Martinez, a sophomore who is in TRIO.

Those who went to the event could receive a free t-shirt, buttons, fliers and brochures ranging from topics such as avoiding financial aid fraud to a money management checklist for students. Students could also select information on how to file for FAFSA and counseling services. 

Students were also invited to sign a banner stating “I am first.” Martinez said being a first-generation college student is an important accomplishment.

“At first, I decided to go to a big university like everyone else in my high school, but then realized that might not be an option, so being here is a daily reminder of what I can do,” Martinez said.

Sophomore Naja Jones copied this sentiment.

“When I’m feeling stressed out and I feel like I can’t do it, it (being a first-generation student) is a motivating factor for sure,” said Jones. “It keeps me pushing and it keeps me working because I know I want to do better and I want my family to know that I am doing better and to be happy for me.”

Leading up to event, Retention Coordinator for TRIO – Student Support Service Stephanie Neve, sent out emails highlighting first-generation alumni to the Simpson community. These profiles were presented in a poster at the event. 

Neve is a first-generation alum of Simpson College. She came back to Simpson after completing graduate school to work as an assistant chaplain and service coordinator. 

“I realized something was missing and what I wanted was to work with students like me and to help them in their transition to college,” said Neve. “A position opened up and I went for it and I’ve been here for almost eight years.”

Neve advised for first-generation students to not focus so much on what you want to do for the rest of your life, but who you want to be for the rest of your life.

“Take advantage of opportunities to help you become that person. This can include career and personal stuff, but think about the big picture,” said Neve. “What I thought I wanted to do at 18 is nowhere near what I am doing now, and I’m happy for that.”

TRIO received two surprise donations dedicated to first-generation students.

“We had the freedom to do whatever we wanted,” Neve said. “We wanted to serve that population with that money so we decided to do some scholarships.”

TRIO awarded three larger scholarships with one donation, then four smaller scholarships with the other to students currently enrolled in TRIO. 

TRIO also applied for national grants in help with planning this event, which took around eight months to plan. COE and NASFA partnered together to create the grant. Simpson was the only school in Iowa to receive the grant.

“TRIO is there to help us navigate through all of the difficulties we will approach or have approached in college,” Martinez said. 

TRIO services are located on campus in the library and helps first-generation students, students with lower income and students with disabilities. To qualify for TRIO, applicants have to meet one of the three criteria. 

TRIO can serve 160 students at Simpson with current funding. The program is at capacity, but is always accepting additional applications for their wait list.

TRIO has helped get first-generation students through college and continues to create a huge impact on students’ lives. 

“They have provided a lot of support. I was having a rough time my first year around May term and I talked with my mentor Stephanie,” Jones said. “I knew at the time that I could do it, but I was like no let me out, let me leave. But she said no and that I was capable of achieving what I want.” 

TRIO will be hosting a forum called “The Power of Being First” on Nov. 20 in Hubbell Hall from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.