TRIO Tag

Alejandra Cardoso, a recent graduate of Washington State University Tri-Cities, was chosen as one of three representatives from Washington state to participate in the Council for Opportunity in Education’s National Policy Seminar March 19-22 in Washington, D.C.

The seminar affords the TRIO and GEAR UP communities the opportunity to help educate members of Congress, congressional staff and the president’s administration officials about the history and success of the programs, while giving the participants a chance to represent the interests and desires of low-income and first-generation students, veterans, adult learners and students with disabilities in the policy arena.

“It is really an honor,” Cardoso said. “What I’m looking forward to most about the conference is the opportunities to develop myself as a leader, as well as the opportunity to connect with other students with both similar and different backgrounds.”

Cardoso said she hopes to use the experience to share her own story of how the TRIO program at WSU Tri-Cities helped her be successful in her academics, which led her to successfully obtaining a position as a crime victim advocate with the Support, Advocacy and Resource Center in Kennewick, Wash., immediately following graduation last spring.

Cardoso said she was raised in an environment where school wasn’t considered valuable. She said she dropped out of school her junior year of high school, and that it wasn’t until after she had her first child at 17 that she considered going back to school to complete her high school diploma. The TRIO program, both at the community college level, as well as at WSU Tri-Cities, helped ensure her success in obtaining a bachelor’s in psychology.

“I never really saw myself as a college student,” she said. “What really got me interested in going when when I first worked at my first job at WorkSource. Seeing the social workers there inspire me to drive for my own success in that field. The TRIO program at WSU Tri-Cities kept me on track toward obtaining that goal.”

After transferring from Yakima Valley College to WSU Tri-Cities, Cardoso said she got really involved in the TRIO program, which provided her with support services ranging from tutoring, to counseling about academic and person-related issues and much more.

“The TRIO staff always try to help you as best as they can,” she said. “Just knowing that there was someone out there looking out for me and willing to help me, as long as I was willing to help myself, was crucial.”

In her current role as a crime victim advocate for SARC, Cardoso is fulfilling her dream of helping individuals get out of their despairing situations in order to live a better and more prosperous life. Specifically, she helps victims of harassment, assault, child abuse, identity theft and more.

“I’m the first person in my family to graduate from high school, let alone a university,” she said. “Now, I’m working on my master’s, which will allow me to further help individuals suffering with dangerous and undesirable situations. TRIO and WSU Tri-Cities helped me get to where I’m at now. I’m excited to share my story with others at the national policy seminar and I hope that I can help inspire positive change at the national level.”

For more information on the national policy seminar, visit http://www.coenet.org/policy_seminar.shtml.

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

Manny-Garcia-80RICHLAND, Wash. – Within the confines of his cold, concrete prison cell, Emmanuel “Manny” Garcia found himself seven years ago contemplating the depths of his reality.

Following the death of his father in 2000, he got involved with the wrong crowd and started abusing drugs. In 2009, he was found guilty of theft of firearms and burglary and began serving a sentence at Airway Heights Corrections Center in Spokane, Wash.

There, he started a plan to ensure he would never see the inside of a prison cell again: “I enrolled in some college classes,” he said.

Thanks to this first step, and help from the federal TRIO program, he has overcome his criminal past and is thriving as a student speaker and future leader. TRIO provides low-income, first-generation and disabled students with tutoring, counseling and other resources to help them succeed both inside and outside the classroom.

“TRIO changed my life,” Garcia said. “I don’t know where I would be today without the TRIO program and the help I’ve received through Washington State University Tri-Cities.”

Care, concern keep him on track

While taking courses in prison through Spokane Falls Community College, Garcia worked with his chemical dependency counselor to end the toxic cycle of substance abuse and addiction. He got a job, earning 30 cents an hour, to pay off $1,500 in college debt he owed from a previous try at community college.

Manny-Garcia
WSU Tri-Cities student Emmanuel “Manny” Garcia is using the university TRIO program to overcome his troubled past and help others.

“I was battling many personal issues and many personal demons,” he said. “I wanted a better life for myself. I knew it could be done through the power of education.”

Out of prison in March 2012, he enrolled in Big Bend Community College. After a successful first quarter, he decided to take winter quarter off.

“I was just feeling that I wasn’t adequate and I wasn’t worthy to go back and be in school,” he said. “My thought was ‘How is a convict like me ever going to change?’ That was when a TRIO advisor called me. They cared enough to call and see if I was OK.”

That gave him the motivation to complete his associate’s degree before enrolling at WSU Tri-Cities, where TRIO has continued to be crucial to his success.

Better future based on education, experience

A junior psychology student, Garcia ultimately hopes to earn a doctorate and start a nonprofit organization to help out others with troubled pasts.

He said the TRIO staff at WSU Tri-Cities has been able to locate scholarships for him that he would not have known about otherwise. He is on a psychology research team and participates in community service projects. He holds a 3.8 grade point average.

He has served as a resident advisor for TRIO Upward Bound, the organization’s summer academy program, where he shares his story with younger students.

“Things are going really well for me now, and I owe a lot of that to the TRIO program,” he said.

He works with the El Nuevo Camino organization, a crisis intervention program to reduce youth crime and violence. He serves on the board and is being trained to become project manager.

“It is a new organization, but we collaborate with local law enforcement, judges, district attorneys, community leaders and health professionals,” he said. “Our plan is to make a real difference right here in our local community.”

Aiming for grad school, inspiring others

Garcia said he hopes his story encourages others on the path to success and will motivate others to apply to TRIO and get involved.

He recently spoke at WSU Tri-Cities’ first celebration of National TRIO Day:

“I want to encourage you, if you are a first-generation, low-income or disabled student, to sign up for TRIO today,” he said. “I am fully convinced that TRIO works. I am living proof. If I can do it, so can you.”

He plans to apply for TRIO’s Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, which is a competitive grant for graduate school for participants from disadvantaged backgrounds who have demonstrated strong academic potential.

For more information about the TRIO program at WSU Tri-Cities, visithttps://tricities.wsu.edu/trio/.