As Graduation Season Nears, Be Sure to Plan Your TRIO Celebration

Recognizing your graduating TRIO participants helps establish a connection to your program’s alumni network. Alumni networks—at the local and national levels—provide support, resources, and networking opportunities for graduates as they move on to the next phase of their lives.

Graduating from high school or college is a significant achievement that deserves recognition and celebration. Your graduating TRIO students have worked hard and dedicated several years to their education, and acknowledging their efforts can be a great source of motivation and pride. 

Ronda McLelland, director of Student Support Services at the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville, hosts a reception for her TRIO graduates and their families immediately before the main ceremony on campus and gives cords out to her seniors for this event each year. 

“We honor our graduates by allowing them to invite any faculty members or family members that have made a difference in their lives through their education journey,” McLelland said. “At the end of the event, the TRIO students arrive [at the main campus ceremony’s] graduation lineup together, which is awesome to see.” 

A source of encouragement for future success 

Acknowledging the accomplishments of your TRIO students graduating from high school can inspire them to set new goals and work towards achieving them.  

Graduating high school seniors often receive support from their families, friends, teachers, and the broader community. Raymond Cabrera, director of Upward Bound at the University of South Florida, encourages TRIO programs to transform the graduation celebration into an opportunity to raise the profile of the TRIO program on campus and in the local community.  

“Invite community leaders, local congressional representatives, and other such key personnel to your graduation celebrations,” Cabrera said. “Make sure to share that class’s accomplishments and points of pride during the program.” 

While Cabrera typically invites an alumnus to give remarks at his pre-college program’s graduation ceremony, the event always includes food, photos, and a slideshow of the time his graduating Upward Bounders have spent in the program. 

“Most times, we have hosted it right on campus in the conference space in our student center, making it easy, especially for our students and parents who are familiar with the campus,” Cabrera said.  “Other options have included hotels or space from one of our area partners. We host them on weeknights from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. For years, we did it on a Saturday and invited all our students to be there and celebrate the graduating class.” 

COE offers discounts on TRIO lapel pins, stoles, and medallions. Order them early to ensure they arrive on time.

How to plan your graduation celebration 

Planning an on-campus graduation ceremony involves several steps. Here are some general steps to get you started: 

  1. Determine the date and time of the ceremony: The date and time should be convenient for both the graduates and the faculty. Consider any conflicts with other events on campus or in the surrounding area. 
  1. Identify the location: Consider the number of graduates, the size of the venue, and the accessibility of the location. Reserve the space and confirm availability for the day of the event. 
  1. Decide on the ceremony’s format: Will it be a traditional ceremony with speeches and the conferring of diplomas, or will it be more informal? Will there be guest speakers or special presentations? 
  1. Plan the program: Plan the details once you have decided on the ceremony format. This includes selecting the speakers and their topics, determining the order of events, and deciding on the length of the ceremony. 
  1. Decide if you want a graduation speaker: Choose one who can inspire and motivate the graduates. Consider alumni, faculty members, or other individuals with connections to the school or the graduates. 
  1. Consider involving program alumni: McLelland has her students register on the National TRIO Alumni Association as part of her celebration. “Including alumni in your celebration shows your students that they are a part of something bigger,” she says. 
  1. Order graduation regalia: Graduates will need caps, gowns, and hoods (if applicable) for the ceremony. Order them early to ensure they arrive on time. COE offers lapel pins, stoles, and medallions for purchase here
  1. Plan the logistics: Coordinate with the school administration, security personnel, and any vendors involved in the ceremony. This includes arranging for parking, seating, and decorations. 
  1. Send invitations: Send invitations to graduates, faculty, and any guests attending the ceremony. Provide them with all necessary details, including the ceremony’s date, time, and location. 
  1. Conduct a rehearsal: Conduct a rehearsal with the graduates to ensure that everyone knows what to expect and where to go during the ceremony. 
  1. Hold the ceremony: Finally, hold the ceremony on the designated day and time. Ensure everything runs smoothly and everyone has an enjoyable and memorable experience. Remember to involve the graduates and faculty in planning as much as possible to ensure a successful event. 

The importance of connecting graduates to alumni networks 

Lastly, recognizing your graduating TRIO participants helps establish a connection to your program’s alumni network. Alumni networks—at the local and national levels—provide support, resources, and networking opportunities for graduates as they move on to the next phase of their lives. Here are a few benefits to inducting your TRIO graduates into both their local and national TRIO alumni chapters: 

  • Networking: Alumni associations provide recent graduates an opportunity to network with fellow alumni who may be in their industry or have similar interests. This can lead to job opportunities, career advice, and other valuable connections. 
  • Professional Development: Many alumni associations offer career development resources, such as job search assistance, resume reviews, and workshops on leadership and entrepreneurship. 
  • Giving Back: TRIO alumni associations can support their hosting program through fundraising, volunteering, and mentoring. This allows alumni to give back to their community and help future TRIO students. 
  • Social Opportunities: Alumni associations host events and receptions that provide opportunities to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones. 

Share how you plan to celebrate your graduating students in the class of 2023 with COE and email Terrance Hamm, Associate Vice President of Communications and Marketing, at [email protected]

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