Program helps first generation students acclimate to GVSU

GVL / Courtesy - Kaelee Steffens

Kaelee Steffens

GVL / Courtesy – Kaelee Steffens TRIO

Kyle Bindas

For new college students, figuring out how to transition from high school to a university can quickly get overwhelming. One program at Grand Valley State University is there to help, especially for first-generation students. These students, who are the first in their families to attend college, can often have a more difficult time adjusting to the college environment.

TRIO Teacher Preparation Student Support Services (TTPSSS) helps first generation, low-income students and students with disabilities who are education majors succeed at GVSU.

The program offers a variety of services to eligible students. Some services include success seminars, peer mentoring, financial literacy training, tutoring services and cultural education experiences, as well as preparation classes for the tests required to student teach in Michigan.

TTPSSS is part of TRIO, a federally-funded program designed to help first-generation, underprivileged and disabled individuals succeed in school. Other TRIO programs offered at GVSU include TRIO Student Support Services Traditional, McNair Scholars, Upward Bound and Educational Talent Search.

This is the first year TTPSSS has been on GVSU’s campus, and so far its services have been well-utilized.

“I would say that we’re seeing success. We’re seeing students using our services, we’re seeing students come in and ask us questions,” said Kaelee Steffens, program adviser for TTPSSS. “We’re going to events on campus and meeting new people. Overall I think it’s definitely been a success.”

Students have also been taken on volunteer trips and cultural enrichment trips, such as a visit to the Charles H. Wright African American Museum in Detroit.

“These are trips that they will be able to embed into their classroom,” said Aliya Armstrong, program director for TTPSSS. “Maybe these are places that they will take their future students, but it’s certainly enriching experiences that will help them have these discussions and make them diverse educators and enrich their diversity background.”

TTPSSS helps first-generation students by giving them advice and guidance about the challenges of college that their family may not be able to give them. Kayla Kaminski, a GVSU senior and member of TTPSSS, said going to college as a first-generation student is similar to being lost because their parents don’t have any guiding experiences from their own college days.

“It’s tough and you don’t really put it into prospective until you get into a program like this,” Kaminski said. “It’s a hard decision to make to stay in college, because it is not easy. So I think that they’ve definitely made it clear to me that I can do it. It really does help, (the) constant encouragement.”

“You open yourself up to all of these new, great people that want to support you because you’re going through the same thing,” Steffens said. “TRIO becomes a family for you.”

Plans for the program’s future include integrating study abroad into the program and expanding the enrollment of the program and of the education major, Armstrong said.

“Don’t be afraid to try it. It’s an amazing program, and I just think that everyone who qualifies should be a part of it,” she said. “I wish I would have taken more advantage of similar type opportunities when I had the chance.”

TTPSS will be hosting an open house Monday, Oct. 17 from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the University Club in the DeVos Center for interested students.