TRiO Day Fuels Area High School Students for Success

GW School of Medicine Hosts Annual Event to Celebrate Shared Commitment and Keep Students Focused on the Finish Line.
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The George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) welcomed representatives from fellow Washington, D.C. area Upward Bound partners Howard University, Morgan State University, and the College Success Foundation, to celebrate the 38th annual National TRiO Day on Feb. 24, 2024. 

The event served as an opportunity to encourage and empower more than 50 area high school students to “keep going,” as the academic year moves toward the final stretch. The mix of 9th through 12th grade students participated in workshops, student led panels, and heard from alumni and stakeholders about the determination, work ethic, and integrity necessary for sustained success in college. 

“Today is an opportunity to celebrate our scholars and to get them pumped up to finish out the school year strong,” explained Darrell Thornton, director of the GW Upward Bound program.

In 1986 passage of the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Deficit Reduction Act threatened federal funding for more than 300 universities hosting Student Support Service programs — Upward Bound, Educational Talent Search, and Special Services — formed through the Higher Education Act in 1965. This annual event commemorates the day national TRiO program leaders rallied support for the programs designed to increase the retention and graduation rates among first-generation college students and those from lower income families.

For more than two decades, GW SMHS has secured a $1.2 million in Department of Education competitive grant to fund Upward Bound college preparatory programming for first generation and low-income D.C. public school students. The program offers an added layer of support for students as they prepare for and navigate through college, providing tutoring sessions, standardized testing preparation, and college readiness workshops. Students also gain professional development experience honing interviewing and resume building skills.

While much of the information in this year’s TRiO Day workshops — College Readiness, Why Upward Bound, Urban Reality Check — was material the students have covered throughout the year, according to Thornton, hearing it from a new source lends added credence.

“We have speakers [from the Council for Opportunity Education and the Department of Education] that the students don’t know,” he said of the day’s events. “Sometimes, when you have a new face presenting something, it lands a little bit differently, so hopefully it reinforces the message and it sticks.” 

Each Upward Bound institution also used the occasion to honor their top achieving students of the 2023-24 academic year. GW SMHS presented four awards to members of its Upward Bound class — Janiya Rivera, the Student of the Year Award; Justus Starr, the Spectacular Senior Award; Siyeda Tomlinson, the Leadership Award; Asa Watson, for Exemplary Academic Achievement — and the Commitment to Excellence award was presented to past GW Upward Bound Director Janeale Gottlieb- George for her long-standing support. 

GW’s Upward Bound program provides year-round academic and social support, as well as cultural enrichment for its participants. Two years into a five-year funding cycle, GW’s chapter is at 85% capacity, Darrell says, “we are funded for 60 and we’re at 52 students right now.”

Along with Gabrielle Mitchell, GW Upward Bound associate director, and Eric Burks Jr., GW Upward Bound program coordinator, Thornton wanted to connect with area programs to bring back TRiO Day in the District. “It was something we wanted to do for our students as we’re moving our program into a new vision,” he said. 

“I tell the students every day, we lift as we climb,” Thornton added, emphasizing a philosophy of shared missions and commitment. “We talk about collaboration. We talk about communication and effective leadership. This is what that looks like.”

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