First in their families to plan on college

TRiO Day prepares students for college success, hosts fair at Crowne Plaza

Posted 2/21/23

The Grand Ballroom of the Crowne Plaza Hotel was the scene of a unique college fair Friday morning  – one important enough to receive its own Congressionally-recognized holiday.

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First in their families to plan on college

TRiO Day prepares students for college success, hosts fair at Crowne Plaza


The Grand Ballroom of the Crowne Plaza Hotel was the scene of a unique college fair Friday morning  – one important enough to receive its own Congressionally-recognized holiday.

Nearly 400 attendees and more than 80 colleges turned out for National TRiO Day, organized by the New England Educational Opportunity Association and designed to offer both insight and inspiration to first-generation college students.

 “The goal is to help these students navigate this new experience for their family,” said Randy Schroeder, a member of the NEOA [sic] Board of Directors. “In addition to the actual tables from the universities, we have workshops on topics like college access and success, plus community-building activities so the kids can interact and get to know one another.”

 The TRiO Programs have their origins in the Johnson Administration, and represented the US Department of Education’s contribution to LBJ’s “Great Society.” “The programs started in 1964 during the War on Poverty,” Schroeder explained.

“We focus on low-income students who are the first in their families to receive a bachelor’s degree.” The name “TRiO” derives from the fact that there were originally three federal programs included within the DoE umbrella: Upward Bound, Talent Search, and Student Support Services. Over time, this has swelled to include a total of eight programs, including initiatives designed to support students who are disabled or military veterans. Upward Bound is likely the most well-known of these programs, and focuses on providing students from economically and geographically underrepresented categories access to the resources needed to effectively pursue a college career. In addition to networking opportunities and educational outings throughout the school year, the program includes an intensive summer component on the campus of a participating college.

Luckson Omoh Omoaregba is an Upward Bound alumni who now works as the Director of Pathway Programs at Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School. He was one of several guest speakers who addressed TRiO Day attendees, along with Lt Gov. Sabina Matos and Sen Jack Reed. Omoaregba described Upward Bound as a “transformational, life changing journey” which has continued to shape him long after his 2011 graduation from Rhode Island College. In his remarks to the high school juniors gathered for the event, Omoaregba used a cooking anecdote to underscore the importance of focusing on authenticity when searching for a good fit in a college.

 “I recently started trying to make jollof rice, the way my mother used to,” he said, referring to a West African staple including rice, stewed tomatoes, and a variety of vegetables and meats. “And although I could make jollof that looked really good – that was perfect for a photo on Instagram or to send to my mom – but it didn’t have the right flavor… And I realized over time that I was too concerned with the aesthetics of the jollof and more worried about the praise I would get for making it.”

 Extrapolating from his culinary exploits, Omoaregba told college-bound students to “focus on the flavor. Don’t get fooled into putting appearance and aesthetics above flavor and substance… And in order to get the right flavor in your life, you have to pay attention to who you are at the core.”

In order to allow students to sample as many college flavors as possible, TRiO Day included organized outings to ten different schools in the area. Makenna Perkins, of Farmington High School in New Hampshire, was inspired to add the University of Rhode Island to her list of schools after attending one of these trips.

“I just really loved the energy on campus,” Perkins said. “I didn’t know anything about the school beforehand, and had never thought of applying, but now it’s my second favorite after the University of Maine.” Now a junior, Perkins has been involved with Upward Bound since her freshman year of high school. “We spend six weeks in the summer at the University of New Hampshire,” she said. “It really helps us prepare and reminds us how important getting a college education is.”

 TRiO graduates have gone on to achieve great things indeed, exemplified locally by alumni like actress Viola Davis and Providence College basketball coach Ed Cooley.

Nancy Eagan, PC’s Dean of Admissions, said that events like TRiO Day can be an important means of finding future Friars. “There are many students at these events who might not even have a school like PC on their radar,” she explained. “Going to fairs like this and showing students the resources we have brings in a lot of applications we wouldn’t have seen otherwise.”

 This was the first in-person TRiO Day held since the pandemic; events for 2021 and 2022 had to take place virtually.

 “It feels so much better to actually be able to walk from table to table and talk face-to-face with people,” said Jessica Coronel, the Associate Director of the Precollegiate and Education Access Programs at Western Connecticut State University. “There are so many more opportunities for the students to network, to go out and visit the schools, and to get the attention and focus needed to set them up for success after high school.”

The Nutmeg State will be hosting next year’s TRiO Day, scheduled to take place in Springfield. In order to make that event as successful as possible, a portion of this year’s TRiO Day was dedicated to professional development.

 “The goal is for us to work together and develop more effective strategies for student engagement,” said Jerreod Murr, of the professional development company Paradigm Shift. “It’s especially important given the most recent youth statistics from the Center for Disease Control: nearly 40% of all adolescents (and 60% of female students) have experienced depression, and about a quarter have seriously contemplated suicide. Setting a student up for post-secondary success begins by finding meaningful ways to respond to that.” Workshops for students, meanwhile, included topics ranging from financial literacy to resume-building to professional communication etiquette. For more information about the federal TRiO programs, including benefits provided and requirements to qualify, please visit the website of the Office of Postsecondary Education at

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