The University of Maine has a unique student population. While the school tries to cater to everyone’s specific needs, it’s not always an easy task with a student body of over 11,000. Luckily, UMaine has a team of friendly staff and students who are there for those who might need a little extra support.
The TRIO SSS (Student Support Services) program at UMaine works with just over 400 students, according to Jenn Boynton-Allen who is TRIO’s outreach coordinator. Nicole Cloud is also an employee.
“For those students… we have been super fortunate to have this grant since the 1970s,” Boynton-Allen said. “With the grant money, we are able to do things above and beyond what may not be available to the average UMaine student.”
Although TRIO would love to be able to offer these services to all students, the team agreed that they feel fortunate to be able to assist even a small portion of students. TRIO does have a limit and therefore accepts students who may be at higher risk of not graduating.
“We work with first-generation college students… Pell Grant students, and students who have a documented disability,” Cloud explained.
“When I interview a student, what I’m really looking for is what they are looking for,”Boynton-Allen shared. “Is this program going to be a good match for this student? Is this a student who wants to be a part of the TRIO SSS program?” Once a student is accepted into TRIO, they are always a part of it throughout their entire college career — there is no annual application process.
TRIO is not a UMaine-specific program — it is a nationwide organization that is funded by the Department of Education and works with over 750,000 students on a need basis. TRIO offers programs for students from elementary age and up, filling in for whatever might get undercut in the school system.
“We do a little bit of everything,” Boynton-Allen shared.
For UMaine, this means tutoring, advising, counseling, peer coaching, assistance with FAFSA and so much more, including special events. This month is March Money Madness, a financial literacy program that Peer Coach Coordinator Nicole Cloud feels very strongly about.
“[Students who participate in the program are] not just set during their university experience, but it is a launching for their entire lives,” Cloud said. Encouraging students and young adults to know how finances work, whether that looks like taking out a loan or checking a credit score is hugely important, especially for TRIO students.
UMaine’s TRIO SSS office stops at nothing to get the word out about their program. The office reaches out to potentially eligible students before they even come to the university, in hopes that they can alleviate some initial stress. TRIO also attends first-year seminars and makes its program known to professors and advisors.
It is easy to tell that the team of individuals working in the TRIO office not only think very highly of the program but are truly passionate about what they do to help their students.
“Whatever is going to be useful to that student to help them graduate, that’s the purpose of why we’re here,” Boynton-Allen said.