Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst’s visit to Southwestern Community College Friday was one of those “win-win” situations.
A Murray student won a scholarship through a Southwestern program and Ernst won some information she can take back to Washington D.C. about how the programs help certain students.
Abbe Baumfalk was awarded a $1,000 scholarship from Southwestern through the TRIO program.
TRIO is educational opportunity for first generation, low-income and disabled Americans. Congress established a series of programs to help low-income Americans enter college with the goal of graduating. These programs are funded under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 and are referred to as the TRIO Programs (initially just three programs). While student financial aid programs help students overcome financial barriers to higher education, TRIO programs help students overcome class, social and cultural barriers to higher education.
“I didn’t know what it was,” Baumfalk said about TRIO, with her parents in attendance. “There are ways you can get money for college.”
She hopes her reward will influence future students to participate in the organization.
“Coming from Murray, there are kids who don’t know,” she said.
TRIO Talent Search is a TRIO program 100% federally funded by the United States Department of Education in the amount of a $438,253 per year grant. Talent Search provides 800 eligible junior high students, high school students, and adults with services that will help them enroll in and graduate from an institution of higher learning.
Staff encourages and assists students to reach academic and personal goals by helping them stay in school, enroll in a post-secondary school, or help them complete the high school equivalency diploma. High school students can use TRIO for ACT Test Prep and fee waivers, college campus visits, college application fee waivers, financial aid application assistance, college and scholarship application assistance and guidance through the college process.
Others in attendance at the meeting were people from the area who have been involved in TRIO.
Reagan Brown, a 2016 East Union graduate, said she was involved in TRIO since sixth grade and was a first-generation college student in her family. She is now working in Omaha, Nebraska.
“It was the most consistent support system,” she said. Now, she has nieces and nephews getting involved.
Southwestern’s Bobbie Gillespie, who is part of the TRIO staff, said she benefited from the program.
“There is no way I could have done without it,” she said.
Orient-Macksburg eighth-grade student Kaydence Kirkland said she has been involved with TRIO through a tour of Southwestern and tickets to a volleyball match and a STEM program.
Ernst was asked to have Congress continue the program as much as possible.
“I love the program,” she said, referring to her college years at Iowa State University. “I muddled my way through college. It’s tough.”
Ernst said she was appreciative of the personal stories from the people in the room who used have used the program. She said New York Dem. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is a good friend and how TRIO was explained to her is how she would influence Gillibrand to have something similar in her state.
“It’s the stories,” she said. “She won’t care about a bunch of stats.”
Southwestern President Marjorie McGuire-Welch said it’s these kind of programs where students can go off to college and learn hopefully to “return and thrive.” She said she understood the benefits of the program for the students that fit the criteria, “But it’s all students we need to serve.”