Five distinguished TRIO alumni received the 2023 National TRIO Achiever Awards at COE’s Educational Opportunity Dinner during its annual conference. They are Cheryl L. Johnson, 36th Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, 2019-2023, and director of external affairs and government relations, U.S. Agency for Global Media; James T. Brett, president and chief executive officer of the New England Council; Fernando Cárdenas, director of partnership development and community activation, Comcast; Lesia Crumpton-Young, immediate past president, Texas Southern University; and Ruben Canedo, co-chair, University of California Systemwide Basic Needs Committee.
Johnson expressed her gratitude for being recognized as a National TRIO Achiever but also commended the audience for their daily efforts to improve the lives of teenagers in cities like Washington, D.C. and across the nation. Johnson emphasized the importance of investing in education and urged advocates to emphasize to Congress the significant impact of programs like Head Start, Talent Search, Upward Bound, and Student Support Services, which provide greater dividends compared to taxpayer dollars spent on juvenile detention facilities.
Brett humorously acknowledged himself as the elder among the Achievers and encouraged his fellow honorees to celebrate their relative youth and accomplishments. He credited Upward Bound at Boston College with transforming his life, describing it as a “social and cultural boot camp” that opened his eyes to a larger world.
Cárdenas shared his journey from his parents working in the fields to his role at Comcast, where his team connected 10 million people to the Internet. He attributed his success to the Upward Bound program at Fresno State, which helped him discover his worth and value. He emphasized the importance of TRIO in empowering individuals to pursue education and achieve their dreams.
Crumpton-Young recounted her experience advocating for herself when she decided to major in engineering at Texas A&M University, despite her advisor’s discouragement. She became the first African American female to earn undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral degrees in engineering from the university, thanks to the support and preparation she received from Upward Bound. She highlighted the importance of mentoring and credited Upward Bound with shaping her journey to becoming a university president.
Canedo stressed the significance of research and value-centered work, citing his paper from the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program as a blueprint for policy change and program organization. He discussed how his research around supporting programs for undocumented students formulated the basis for his work today and emphasized the importance of healing, disability, and transformative justice in pursuing true equity.
Through their powerful messages, these National TRIO Achievers ensured that the Educational Opportunity Dinner was, once again, a most inspiring event that illuminated the vital role of TRIO programs in student success.