Nov. 16, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Since 2015, Wharton County Junior College's TRiO SSS program has helped 184 students graduate by providing a host of services. Pictured, from left, are TRiO students Christian Castillo of El Campo and Adriana Espinosa of Eagle Lake.
WHARTON, TEXAS – As a former competitive sprinter, Wharton County Junior College sophomore Christian Castillo understands the importance of having a good coach to provide accountability and motivation. Without such support, it can be nearly impossible for an athlete to achieve his or her full potential.
The same holds true for educational goals. An El Campo High School graduate, Castillo, 20, is now in his third semester at WCJC – an accomplishment he believes is largely due to the college’s TRiO Student Support Services program. Funded by a U.S. Department of Education grant, TRiO provides a wide array of services to low income and first-generation students. Services include advising, tutoring, free printing, the use of a computer lab, graduation and transfer assistance, and financial aid assistance.
A $1.3 million grant was recently obtained to enable the program to operate for another five years.
“I live on my own and don’t have anyone to push me,” Castillo explained. “TRiO has helped me tremendously. The people who work here really motivate you.”
TRiO staff helped Castillo in a host of ways, from lending books to offering tutoring to providing free printing.
They even helped him find part-time employment as a TRiO assistant. Castillo believes such support will enable him to achieve his dream job of becoming a track coach.
“If I didn’t have TRiO, I don’t know what I would do,” he said.
TRiO SSS Project Director Jessica Falcon said the grant-funded program has helped 184 students graduate from WCJC and transfer to universities since 2015. Students must apply to the program and can do so by completing an online application found on the WCJC website.
“We are extremely grateful for the continued opportunity to help low-income and first-generation students at WCJC,” Falcon said. “We are invested in our students and do everything in our power to push them to the finish line.”
Falcon oversees the program with the assistance of Shayna Guerra, the program’s advisor and coordinator, and Elizabeth Argote, program clerk. Several part-time academic support leaders also help out where needed.
“All three members of the TRiO staff were first-generation students,” Falcon noted. “We have all been in the students’ shoes and know exactly what they are going through.”
WCJC sophomore Adriana Espinosa drives from Eagle Lake to get to the TRiO center, which is located on the first floor of the J.M. Hodges Learning Center on WCJC’s Wharton campus. She said the half hour drive is well worth the benefits.
“They helped me with financial aid, they had study sessions for anatomy and I have even come here to print,” said Espinosa, who is pursuing a nursing degree. “They are great at motivating you and I think more students should utilize what they have to offer.”