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Connections continue as NMSU’s TRIO Upward Bound supports high school students

Release Date: 07 Jun 2021
Connections continue as NMSU’s TRIO Upward Bound supports high school students

The delivery method changed, but the results of New Mexico State University’s TRIO Upward Bound program at Gadsden Independent School District/Las Cruces Public Schools did not. The TRIO Upward Bound GISD/LCPS staff provided virtual services to all of its participants despite the challenges COVID-19 posed, and provided students with the tools for a successful higher education experience.

“Like many other NMSU departments, the TRIO UB program staff overcame many challenges to deliver seamless academic services to each high school participant — freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and particularly to its seniors,” said Rosa De La Torre-Burmeister, TRIO Upward Bound GISD/LCPS program director.

Upward Bound is a federally funded TRIO program that helps low-income and first-generation students attend and graduate from college. Each year, the TRIO Upward Bound GISD/LCPS program serves 90 students from five target high schools: Gadsden, Santa Teresa, Las Cruces, Mayfield and Oñate.

“Virtual programming was not only a technical dilemma but also cold and awkward for all at the beginning, now it has become the new norm,” De La Torre-Burmeister said. “Our knowledge, skills and abilities have evolved. We have become Zoom gurus. We learned to develop ‘cascades’ in chat, we have become DJs, avatar creators, create breakrooms, and created another ‘texting language’ for example, idk is I don’t know; rtg is ready to go.”

The 2021 cohort included 20 high school seniors with 15 set to attend NMSU’s Las Cruces campus during the summer and five to attend NMSU’s Doña Ana Community College.

Several of the 2021 graduates received scholarships, including Gadsden High School graduates Juan Diaz, Daniels Fund Scholarship; Damian Treviño, Horatio Alger State Scholarship; Haylee Viramontes, Horatio Alger Association State Scholarship; and Gabby Diaz, Hadley Honors Scholarship.

Diaz, who plans to attend NMSU and study mechanical engineering, said he believes the skills he gained from TRIO will help him achieve his goal of working at NASA or Tesla after earning his college degree. 

“I feel that my technology skills have improved significantly due to being online for over a year now. I believe that is one good thing we can take away from this virtual education,” he said. “Vince (Engling), Lucy (Gurrola) and Rosa really made it impossible for any challenges to stop us from doing what we had to. I believe that everything about this program has been an advantage and has improved my abilities. Being virtual has not stopped this program from giving us what we need and guiding us through our last year of high school.”

For Viramontes, who plans to study industrial engineering at NMSU, TRIO helped her with time management skills, she said.

“The TRIO services were much more accessible because we were able to stay online and continue to do what we needed to do with no clashes with other schedules. Normally, each of the schools that are part of the program have their designated date for coordinators to meet us at school, but now we were able to meet synchronously. We were also able to multitask at home and take care of things that needed to be taken care of,” Viramontes said.

All of the graduating seniors were given the opportunity to participate in the Aggie Bridge program, which is one of two concurrent summer virtual programs provided by TRIO Upward Bound GISD/LCPS’ 2021 Crimson Summer Institute. Aggie Bridge provides services and activities to help the students transition from high school to college. Participants get the opportunity to enroll in up to seven credits at NMSU during the first summer session and receive mentoring and tutoring. When in the face-to-face setting, the TRIO Upward Bound program provides dorm, meals and an internship opportunity on campus.

The other summer program, the Aggie Academy, provides a six-week academic curriculum including math, English, reading, science, career prep and college knowledge, a foreign language and educational and cultural workshops. Additionally, this summer the programming will include a study abroad theme along with a new component, Wellness Wednesdays, featuring health and financial wellness.

Collaborations for Aggie Academy include Strategic Doing training also known as “NMSU’s Aggie Think!” as part of college readiness with Lauren Goldstein, organizational development specialist with the NMSU’s chancellor’s office; Wellness Wednesdays will include nutrition and etiquette with Andrea Arrigucci, program coordinator from NMSU’s Marriott Hospitality Futures Center, and virtual cooking with NMSU’s Chef Pete Mitchell; mental wellness headed by Marie Zubiate and team of counselors with the Aggie Health and Wellness Center; Tai Chi for Mind, Body, and Soul with Shigang Liu, TRIO Upward Bound instructor; financial wellness with Amanda Morales, United Way of Southwest New Mexico CEO, and the Money Smart Team; and education opportunities with Phame Camarena, dean of the NMSU’s Honors College.

To learn more about the programs, visit https://trioub.nmsu.edu/ and https://trioub.nmsu.edu/gisd-lcps/.

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