UW-Rock TRIO event prepares at-risk students for college life
JANESVILLE — Janesville resident Shelby Winchell knows firsthand what it's like to wade through the roaring rapids of being a new college student.
She also know it helps to be part of UW-Rock's TRIO program that assists first generation, low-income and special needs students.
Winchell, 19, volunteered Wednesday as a returning TRIO student to help new at-risk students begin to assimilate to college life.
"Today is important because it's giving them advice about how to make their transition easier," Winchell said. "It helped us. Knowing the advisers makes it easier."
Winchell said TRIO advisers at UW-Rock make it a point to get to know everyone in the program. That makes it easier to succeed, she said.
"They know you by face," she said.
TRIO is a federally funded program that is designed to increase the retention, graduation and transfer rates of participants, said Julie Janiak, UW Colleges TRIO director. It has been in existence at the college for 35 years, she said.
The program provides advising and tutoring to 150 low-income, disabled or first-generation college students at UW-Rock. The college recently received a $553,207 grant from the U.S. Department of Education to help fund the program until 2022, Janiak said.
The funding pays for Janiak's position, four part-time advisers who help students with writing, math and general advice and a part-time receptionist who coordinates appointments.
More than 400 students have benefited from TRIO funding at UW-Rock County and have gone on to earn bachelor's degrees, Janiak said. Two-thirds of the 150 students in the program must be low-income to qualify for the federal grant, she said.
Students are chosen for the program after TRIO staff reviews students' files and if they are interested in a four-year degree. If eligible, TRIO staff helps students register for classes and helps them through the process.
Wednesday's kick-off event had 60 soon-to-be UW-Rock students attending lectures on things such as learning how to use technology, campus email and websites, how to write an email to a professor, the importance of having textbooks and opening them before the first day of class and problem solving when things don't go perfectly.
"We want students to start on the right foot," Janiak said. "It makes such a difference if they're prepared before the first day. It's important because we serve so many first-generation college students who didn't sit around the supper table and talk about college like other students did."
Beloit native Deisy Reyes will be a freshman at UW-Rock next week. The 18-year-old said she appreciates the help TRIO provides.
"I'm pretty excited," Reyes said. "I had a bunch of questions, and today helped take some things off the list."
Janiak said the goal of TRIO is to have 22 percent of participants earn an associate degree and then transfer to a four-year university. The national average for a non-TRIO student doing that is 25 percent.
"We require they come in every month for advising," Janiak said. "We do intrusive advising. It's not just about classes but transportation, family, making sure everything is going well because you don't go to school in a vacuum. If other things aren't going well you can't do well in the classroom."
After the kick-off event students have time to make changes to schedules, get their textbooks or make other arrangements, she said.
"We try in one day to give them everything they need to know so they can hit the ground running and be just as prepared as any other student who is ready for college," Janiak said.
"Professors are not going to follow-up with them the same way," she said. "This isn't high school, so we're trying to be their safety net and help them forge relationships. We get to know our students."