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Texas Christian University and the Pursuit of HappineSSS

(l-r): BACK ROW — SSS Students Ariel Leon, Eric Garza, Daniela Sigala, Lea Sandoval, Maria Ortiz. FRONT ROW — Director Cynthia Montes, Academic Advisor Elizabeth Rosales-Ojeda.

October 3, 2018

During the Council for Opportunity in Education’s 37th Annual Conference in New York City, Texas Christian University (TCU) was honored as the winner of the Student Support Services 50th Anniversary Student Video Contest. Their video, “Pursuit of HappineSSS,” beat out 40 other Student Support Services projects to win the prize. Several of the TCU Student Support Services (SSS) students — Eric Garza, Ariel Leon, Maria Ortiz, Lea Sandoval, and Daniela Sigala — as well as their Director, Cynthia Montes, and Academic Advisor, Elizabeth Rosales-Ojeda, were in attendance at the event.

The students came up with the concept for the video after multiple brainstorming sessions. The storyline of the final video was a composite of several of the program’s students, including the video’s “star,” Eric Garza. Collectively, it presented a stark picture of the experience of a first-generation college student.

“We started this journey with an idea to create something great,” said Garza. “We had no idea who we were up against, nor did we know how much competition would be out there, but we knew the video we created would allow us to compete. What I enjoyed the most about this whole experience is that we created a video that depicted our perception and belief in the program, and at the root level, it was genuine.” Daniela Sigala said, “It being my senior year at TCU, shooting the video really helped me reflect how far I’ve come.” Lea Sandoval said she loved the amount of creative freedom they were given to execute the project.

“I think the best part about this entire process was that as we were making the video, we were — without realizing it at the time — experiencing everything that SSS stands for,” said Ariel Leon. “We got amazing support from Cynthia and Elizabeth to get started, follow through and win the entire thing, all while having a good group dynamic, coming up with ideas and executing them,” he said. “Throughout college I had the same experience with SSS providing me with opportunities to grow.”

Capturing the lives of first-generation students in one four-minute video is difficult, given that everyone has had a different experience. But, the TCU students felt that focusing on Eric’s story was the perfect way to depict their relationship with SSS. They made a conscious effort to show the community feeling that the office on their campus brings to their daily lives. They were able to briefly show, through Eric’s experiences, the social benefits from being in SSS. “Having the opportunity to show people a little bit of how great SSS has been to students through this video was incredible,” said Maria Ortiz.

After finding out that their video was in the group of top five finalists, the students rallied their university and community to vote for their video on social media. Each team member played a pivotal role in getting the word out about their video and the impact that SSS has had on their lives. The students credit their director and academic advisor with constantly encouraging them and reminding them that winning was definitely possible as long as they each did their part in promoting the video. “Rallying everyone’s support and garnering all our likes was exciting and made winning feel very accomplishing,” said Eric Garza. “We couldn’t have done it without our Director and Academic Advisor!”

An added benefit of spreading the word about their video was that it increased the visibility of the SSS program on the TCU campus. The students said that although the SSS program has played a tremendous role in their lives, not everyone on campus knew about it. After they created the video and promoted it to just about everyone they knew, SSS had a larger campus presence, including recognition from their Chancellor, Victor Boschini.

“This competition spoke to the core of what SSS and TRIO are: belief in self, hard work, and support,” said TCU SSS Director Cynthia Montes. “We set our sights on a goal, solicited resources, worked collaboratively, and executed to the best of our ability.” Ultimately, she said, “It was the process of making the video that taught us, bonded us, and affirmed our abilities.” “Winning was the sweet, sweet icing on the cake and we will cherish this experience forever.”

The program’s academic advisor, Elizabeth Rosales-Ojeda, expressed a similar sentiment. “This was such an exciting time for us — we worked together as a team and were able to accomplish such a huge win,” she said. “I’m very proud of our students all of the hard work they put in — and know that this is an experience we will always remember.”

If you would like to watch the videos of all of the top 5 finalists from the SSS student video contest, please click here.


2018 Indicators Report Released at National Press Club, Encourages Dialogue among Scholars

June 15, 2018

On May 17, 2018, The Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Education (Pell Institute) of the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) and the University of Pennsylvania Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy (PennAHEAD), released the Indicators of Higher Education Equity in the United States — 2018 Historical Trend Report at a meeting at the National Press Club.

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Past Presidents Unite for 40th Anniversary of MO-KAN-NE

May 7, 2018

On April 4-6, 2018, the MO-KAN-NE (Missouri-Kansas-Nebraska) Chapter of the Educational Opportunity Association (EOA) celebrated its 40th Anniversary at their Annual Conference.

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Students Celebrate National TRIO Day 2018

March 16, 2018

TRIO Day began on February 24, 1986, when a congressional resolution (H. Con. Res. 278) declared that Saturday, February 28, 1986, should be designated as "National TRIO Day" to commemorate the annual achievements of the Federal TRIO programs.

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The University of Connecticut's Center for Academic Programs Celebrates Their 50th Anniversary

January 29, 2018

On October 28, 2017, the University of Connecticut's Center for Academic Programs (CAP) celebrated 50 years of Changing Lives through Educational Access with a gala on the Storrs campus.

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Campuses Celebrate First-Generation Students

November 22 2017

Here are just some of the activities that occurred around the country on November 8, 2017. Check out #celebratefirstgen on social media to learn even more!

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Capitol Hill Celebrates First-Generation College Students

November 13, 2017

On November 8, 2017, the Council for Opportunity in Education, in partnership with NASPA-Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, hosted the first annual celebration of First-Generation College Students on Capitol Hill.

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Morehead State University TRIO Program Helps Incarcerated Students

November 2, 2017

Any criminal conviction puts significant barriers before those wanting to improve their lives. It also reduces the pool of job candidates unnecessarily, according to two women who are working to help former inmates become college-bound students.

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McNair: From Limited Opportunities to Undreamed-of Careers

October 10, 2017

Despite a childhood of limited opportunity, Davarian Baldwin dreamed that he could become a politician or lawyer with predictable success.

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Helping Veterans Make the Most of the G.I. Education Bill

July 21, 2017

Julia Gusse can't tell you much about her service in the United States Air Force. She had top-secret clearance.

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Upward Bound Director of 40 Years Finishes His Career Defending Wittenberg University Program

June 14, 2017

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity, said the Roman philosopher Seneca. And Eddie Chambers, Upward Bound program director for 40 years at Wittenberg University, was plenty prepared on March 22nd when he landed in Chicago and glanced at his cell phone before making his connecting flight back home to Ohio.

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Penn State's Talent Search Program: Strengthening Schools, Students

May 15, 2017

To sense the passion that Christal Graham-Jones has for her job as a Talent Search counselor, one only has to look at what she calls her "wall of fame," outside her office door at Sharon High School in Pennsylvania.

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TRIO Student Testifies Before Congress

March 31, 2017

Living in Greenville all my life helped me believe in the American Dream. But belief isn't enough. You also need hard work.

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TRIO Helped Homeless Student Succeed; She Helped Shake Up the System

March 14, 2017

After her first year of college, Jessica McCormick got the dreaded letter from the dean: pull your grades up or you'll be dismissed.

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Book Club Blazes Pathways to Leadership

February 27, 2017

"There's something special that happens when you get a group of powerful women in a room... and shut the door," wrote Andrea Wong in the forward of her book, "Secrets of Powerful Women: Leading Change for a New Generation."

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From Homelessness to Entrepreneurship with TRIO as the Spark

January 26, 2017

Ten years ago Hunter Lin was 11 years-old and working two jobs in China. Today he's a graduate nursing student at Johns Hopkins University and founder of a biomedical start-up company that hopes to launch technology at the end of 2017 to change how diseases are diagnosed around in the world. He credits TRIO with giving him a chance.

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As Actress Viola Davis' Star Soars, Others Recall Upward Bound Beginnings

January 3, 2017

When internationally-acclaimed actress Viola Davis gains her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Jan. 5, two special people will be among the many around the world cheering her on: Her older sister, Deloris Grant, and the sisters' earliest acting coach, Ron Stetson.The federal Upward Bound program links all three.

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