TRIO program helps students reach goal of getting a college degree

Alex Eppel/submitted photo Students from Tonasket's TRIO Upward Bound program show appreciation for the community's support by assisting in serving at the CCC's monthly free community meal. Pictured left to right are Juane Puente, Araceli Torres, Rubi Capote, Christina Torres and Jamie Wilson. Behind Wilson is Isaac Gomez.
Alex Eppel/submitted photo
Students from Tonasket’s TRIO Upward Bound program show appreciation for the community’s support by assisting in serving at the CCC’s monthly free community meal. Pictured left to right are Juane Puente, Araceli Torres, Rubi Capote, Christina Torres and Jamie Wilson. Behind Wilson is Isaac Gomez.

.TONASKET – Students and graduates of the Tonasket TRIO Upward Bound program participated in the 2018 National TRIO Day of Service Sunday, Feb. 25, to express appreciation to the community of for its support of the TRIO programs.

Volunteering for the Tonasket Community Cultural Center’s Free Community Meal, students helped to prepare and serve the meal as well as cleaning up afterward.

“They also spent a few hours beforehand, reflecting on the value of these programs for themselves and their community,” said Alex Eppel, Academic Coordinator and Experience Education Initiative Lead with the TRIO program at Tonasket High School.

Eppel said TRIO, made up of seven federally-funded programs, makes a “world of difference” for millions of students from low-income families who strive to be the first in their families to attend and graduate from college.

“Trio Upward Bound Tonasket has been the best source of information, and a much-needed, dedicated support system,” said THS senior Laura Escatel. “I’ve gained the self-confidence needed to be a leader of myself and to others.”

Escatel said she no longer hesitated to ask questions related to school or outside of school.

“I have set my mind for the preparations and the requirements to apply for financial aid and scholarships to college,” said Escatel.

Eppel said that, unlike student financial programs which help students overcome financial barriers to higher education, the TRIO programs have been providing valuable supportive services to students from poor and working families to successfully enter college and graduate for over 50 years.

Tonasket TRIO Upward Bound has been serving 35 THS students continuously since 2012. Students receive personal and academic advising, college track curriculum workshops and seminars, campus visits, career and educational field trips, grade monitoring and access to tutoring and support with college and scholarship applications. A six-week summer program includes college campus experiences, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning and leadership and life skills.

“Once a student graduates, they are out of the program but we track them for up to six years to make sure they get a degree,” said Eppel. “They can join other TRIO programs in college called Student Support Services, or the Ronald B. McNair Baccalaureate Program at colleges that have those programs, which extend the services.”

Eppel said of 2017, more than 1,000 colleges, universities and community agencies host more than 2,800 TRIO projects that serve approximately 820,000 young people and adults. Thirty-four percent of TRIO students are White, 33 percent are African-American, 21 percent are Hispanic, four percent are Asian-American or Pacific Islander, four percent are American Indian and one percent are listed as “other,” including multiracial students.

“This year TRIO legislation is up for reauthorization, and there are some troubling revisions that could restrict or even eliminate this great program,” said Eppel. “The PROSPER ACT threatens the continuity of the program by eliminating prior experience points. It sets minimum amounts (rather than maximum amounts) of funds to be redirected to new applications and new Impact Grants which give the Education Secretary unlimited scope to redirect all TRIO funding away from its legislated purpose.”

Eppel said another concern was institutions which hold TRIO grants will be penalized for having other programs with similar goals and increased matching funding requirements.

More information about the PROSPER Act can be found at

“We urge everyone to please contact Dan Newhouse, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell to let them know our concerns, and urge continued support for TRIO in Tonasket and the rest of the country,” said Eppel.

“Without TRIO, I wouldn’t know what to do or where to get help,” said Rubi Capote, a THS sophomore and TRIO student. “TRIO has been a big part of my life now, and I wouldn’t want it to stop. TRIO has supported and helped my family and me.”