TRIO: Federally funded program supports first-generation students

By Carol Martin, Kapi‘o Staff Writer/

Kristina Fox is casual, warm, and friendly with a lively sense of humor and a riot of dark, bouncing curls framing her face.

A self-described “mature woman approaching half a century,” Fox enrolled at Kapi‘olani Community College a year ago seeking to earn a degree in business management with a focus on the construction industry.

Fox had a particular desire to improve her written communication skills by taking college-level writing courses.

Fox is one of more than 200 KCC students who benefit from the federally funded TRIO program, which assists those who are low income (as defined by federal guidelines), disabled and/or first-generation college students attain a college degree.

Through TRIO, Fox found ample support in making the adjustment to college.

“TRIO staff helped edit my (writing) work and math, helped me fill out scholarship applications, learn computer skills, research papers,” she said.

Beyond that, TRIO connected Fox to a cohort of supportive peers. In her first years in the program, Fox enjoyed TRIO potlucks and other get-togethers, attended a research symposium held at the John A. Burns School of Medicine, even went to her first live opera performance (“The Mikado”).

“Fellow TRIO students help each other, encourage each other,” Fox said.

Students studying in TRIO Office: Shanette Naumu , Veronica Henderson-Davis, and Christine Natividad. Photo by TRIO student Meihui He.

Students studying in TRIO Office: Shanette Naumu , Veronica Henderson-Davis, and Christine Natividad. Photo by TRIO student Meihui He.

Located in Iliaha 113, TRIO offers many services, including academic advising, choosing courses that are right for your plans, non-academic concerns, career counseling, transfer support services, financial aid, FAFSA and scholarship applications, midterm assessment, tutorial assistance, peer mentoring, financial literacy, cultural diversity enhancement.

TRIO aims to support students to achieve and maintain overall grade point average of 2.0 or higher, continue to remain in school to reach their educational goals, to graduate and transfer to higher levels towards a baccalaureate degree within 4 years.

Some famous graduates of nationwide TRIO programs include actresses Angela Bassett and Viola Davis; U.S. Congressman Henry Bonilla; Ronald E. McNair, the first African-American astronaut to perform a spacewalk; and ABC News correspondent John Quinones.

“We’re all about helping students achieve their goals,” said Student Support Services counselor Teri Mitchell.

Some of Mitchell’s duties include midterm assessment, for which she emails faculty at KCC to ask how TRIO students are performing and what help they may need.  Mitchell has accompanied students on field trips, cultural enhancement performances at Blaisdell Center, nature hikes, and other activities.

The first person students meet as they walk through the TRIO office door is office assistant Frances Hokama.

Hokama helps students feel at home and connects them with a TRIO counselor.

“I’ve been on cultural events with students,” said Hokama.  “It’s nice, away from the academics, to connect with the students that way.  You get to know more about them.”

She recently met with TRIO students for their yoga class and the Lyon Arboretum. Some of the students have been with TRIO for four years.

Hokama especially enjoys TRIO’s traditional end-of-semester celebration. “It’s a time when we honor participants who have completed a program here at KCC,” Hokama said. “(I look) forward to that because we are really proud of our students who have worked very hard to get where they are today and we want to celebrate their achievements.”

“We are very happy for them,” continued Hokama. “They are either moving on to a 4-year college or they will be continuing to develop professionally.  We will celebrate with food and fellowship and all TRIO participants are invited.  Those who are still working on a degree, we hope they will be inspired by the graduates.”

The TRIO office bears ample evidence of their students’ successes. Among the works on display are a set of photos from a TRIO student whose work was selected for display at the KOA Art Gallery Student Art Show and an essay written by another TRIO student that was featured in the Leahi student journal.

KCC Trio also holds a celebration of scholars.

“It’s a day where we bring a cake in to celebrate those who make it into our Director’s List,” said Hokama.  “To be in the Director’s List you need a GPA of 3.5 to 4.0.  Our Counselor’s List is 3.0 to 3.9 GPA.  We post their name on our office walls and all TRIO participants are invited to attend.  Some students are on the list every semester and are so proud of themselves.”