Opportunity Matters Book Club

COE hosts the Opportunity Matters Book Club for first-generation and low-income students, allowing them to discuss literary works that raise issues related to opportunity and equity with their peers, TRIO alumni, and local and national leaders.


FIRST GEN by Alejandra Campoverdi

The featured book for 2024 is FIRST GEN by Alejandra Campoverdi (2023). FIRST GEN by Alejandra Campoverdi is a compelling memoir that explores the challenges and triumphs of being first-generation, offering an intimate and powerful account of navigating generational expectations, achieving success, and finding one’s true identity.


TRIO Programs Foster Literary Engagement and Creative Expression in 2023: Reading ‘Finding Me’ Inspires Student Essays and Artwork on Bullying and Identity.

In 2023, COE continued its successful Opportunity Matters Book Club initiative, inviting TRIO students to engage in discussions centered around how literature reflects their lives. The featured book for that year was Finding Me: A Memoir by Viola Davis, a renowned actress and TRIO Upward Bound alumna. Within the book, she candidly recounts her experiences with poverty, racism, and self-discovery, shedding light on her personal struggles with identity and self-worth. Through unwavering resilience and determination, Davis ultimately triumphs over adversities to become a highly respected and influential presence in the entertainment industry.

Throughout the spring and summer of 2023, TRIO programs nationwide organized local book club chapters to engage program participants in reading and discussing Finding Me. The book club discussions served as inspiration for student essays and artwork, with essay prompts revolving around themes such as addressing bullying, the severity of bullying in schools or communities, and creating resources for bullying victims. The art challenge encouraged students to draw inspiration from the themes explored in the memoir for their creative expressions.

Maura Casey

The Sisterhood: Deloris Davis Grant and Dianne Davis Wright Lead Book Club Discussion of Sister Viola Davis’s Memoir, Finding Me

Both women, throughout the conversation, marveled at what they had been through and the many achievements of the women in their family. They agreed that their mother was intrinsic to their journey.
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In 2022, Deloris Davis Grant introduced an exciting feature to the year’s book club experience, a student essay challenge.

The featured book for 2022 was The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (1984). Set in Chicago in the 1970s, Cisneros explores timely and important themes of individual identity, family and community loyalty, otherness, racial and sexual oppression, and being defined by others or defining oneself. She does this through a series of vignettes that, as she has written, “add up to tell one big story, each story contributing to the whole—like beads on a necklace.”

In 2022, Deloris Davis Grant, a co-recipient of COE’s 2018 TRIO Family Achievement Award, chaired our Book Club. Grant is an English and Drama teacher at Central Falls High School – the same school where she attended Upward Bound. During our kick-off conversation, she introduced an exciting feature to this year’s book club experience, a student essay challenge. From these prompts emerged the following student essays.


Book Club Blazes Pathways to Leadership

“Book Club” was the brainchild of Boise State Upward Bound educational specialist Josh Engler. His Upward Bound classes included many high school women in leadership positions, such as class presidents and yearbook editors who were from low-income backgrounds and might be the first in their families to go college. He was concerned that these women lacked leadership training and mentoring commensurate to their goals. Then he found himself among a handful of men attending last fall’s panel presentation “Women in Leadership: Empowering Career Growth Through Storytelling and Mentorship” at COE’s 35th Annual Conference. The panel focused on the importance of taking leadership roles and connecting with mentors about challenges and successes specific to leadership. “I left inspired and wanting to find ways to connect the young women in my program to women leaders in my community, particularly women of color,” he says.
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Terrance L. Hamm

COE Hosts Education Secretary Cardona to Facilitate 2021 Book Club Discussion with TRIO Students Nationwide

With hard work and the support of quality educators and mentors, Secretary Cardona became a first-generation college graduate and, ultimately, the youngest principal in the State of Connecticut at age 27. Moving on to earn his master’s and doctoral degrees in education, he rose to Superintendent and later State Commissioner of Education. Secretary Cardona will be this year’s program’s final national book club facilitator. Beginning in June, COE has hosted leaders in civil rights, higher education, and business to engage participating precollege and college youth in discussing the book’s myriad themes.
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COE will invite applications for these additional opportunities soon.

COE has seasonal student opportunities for TRIO high school and undergraduate students and recent TRIO graduates. Get notified when COE seeks future cohorts for the opportunities below.


Each summer, COE hosts more than 150 TRIO high school student delegates from Upward Bound, Upward Bound Math-Science and Talent Search programs across the United States and territories to participate in a rigorous 6-day leadership experience in Washington, D.C. During the Leadership Congress, the delegates sleep, study, and dine on the campus of American University.  In addition to meeting their Senators and Representatives on Capitol Hill, delegates participate in community service projects, conflict resolution workshops, and spend much of the program engaged in a Mock Congress. This requires students to research critical policy issues, draft legislation, and debate their peers with their assigned team.

A paid internship opportunity lasting four to six months is awarded each year to a graduating senior or recent college graduate who has participated in a federal TRIO program. The program includes an internship in a Congressional office preceded by several weeks in COE’s Washington, DC office. The internship is named for the late Thomas R. Wolanin, former staff director of the Subcommittee on Post- Secondary Education in the U.S. House of Representatives, a champion of access and affordability in postsecondary education, and a committed advocate for first-generation students.

The Keith Sherin Global Leaders Program was founded with the notion that all college students should have access to international experiences. The program supports the study of TRIO college students with demonstrated leadership skills in a three-to-four-week program. Since 2000, more than 350 low-income, first-generation college students and students with disabilities have participated in COE-sponsored short-term and semester study abroad programs in Great Britain, Mexico, the Netherlands, South Africa, and Spain.

Through the Keith Sherin Global Leaders Washington Semester Program, one high-achieving TRIO college student is selected each semester and supported with tuition, housing, and a small living stipend. The Washington, D.C. public policy program includes a semester of study at Marquette University’s Les Aspin Center and an internship placement in a Congressional office.

COE’s TRIO Career Development Program (TCDP) provides TRIO SSS and McNair students with access to competitive paid internships and jobs. TCDP builds professional skills, supports development through mentoring, provides connections to careers with top employers, and helps maximize their work experience. Students receive personalized mentoring and tools to develop and execute their career plans. After building valuable relationships, these students will be prepared to compete for highly sought-after positions with various public and private sector partners.

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Learn more about how the Council for Opportunity in Education works in conjunction with colleges, universities, and agencies to help low-income students enter college and graduate.