In 1989, Susan C. Brown, then director of the Center for Learning Assistance, saw a need to help low-income and first-generation students and applied for the first TRIO Upward Bound grant at New Mexico State University. More than 30 years later, the program continues to help local high school students and has expanded across Dona Ana County in southern New Mexico.
The United States Department of Education has awarded NMSU $5.2 million in federal grants for the TRIO Upward Bound Programs. NMSU received a five-year grant renewal for $457,674 per year to work with Las Cruces and Gadsden high schools, which was the target of Brown’s first grant. NMSU also has received renewals for a pair of five-year grants for $297,601 each to continue the programs at Alamogordo and Hatch Valley high schools, which began in 2017.
“I’m glad I had the opportunity to do that,” said Brown, who retired from NMSU in 2006. “TRIO is a well-structured program that provides true guidance to really help students and it also helped develop relationships with the high schools.”
Upward Bound is a federally funded TRIO program, which is comprised of seven programs nationwide that help low-income and first-generation students attend and graduate from college. The Las Cruces and Gadsden program serves 90 students, while 60 students are supported at both Hatch Valley and Alamogordo each year.
“TRIO Upward Bound not only works with students to self-advocate to be successful in their secondary and postsecondary education, but the parental component is just as important and critical for participant success. Early on, parents learn how to prepare their children for success in high school and in college,” said Tony Marin, assistant vice president of student affairs.
Brown, who began working as a graduate assistant in the center, went on to lead CLA to include five programs that provide academic support to students. She also was very active in the national TRIO organization and often visited government leaders in Washington, D.C., to educate and emphasize the significance of the programs.
“She was consistently walking the hill and making sure our congressional delegation in New Mexico and across the nation really understood the importance of the program,” Marin said. “One thing Sue used to say all the time was ‘once you’re TRIO, you’re always TRIO.’ It’s a community, not just locally, but a national movement.”
While a large portion of TRIO Upward Bound students attend and graduate from NMSU, it’s not a requirement.
With the most recent grant renewal, the TRIO Upward Bound program at NMSU will now provide services to eight high schools with the addition of Chaparral High School. Marin said he is proud to reach the rural communities in the region and knows the affects extend to more than academics.
“We try to make sure we assist students with not only the education component of it, but also the paying it forward component,” Marin said.
NMSU’s TRIO Upward Bound Program serves students in ninth grade through 12th grade. To enter the program, students have to apply and interview.
For more information on the NMSU Upward Bound Program visit https://trioub.nmsu.edu.