TRIO Educational Opportunity Center creates pathways

TRIO Opportunity Center creates pathways

Validation of the TRIO Educational Opportunity Center at Minneapolis College emerges when beneficiaries of the programs find pathways to achieve career aspirations and life dreams.

TRIO Educational Opportunity Center Director Nardos Senbeta recently returned from a national meeting in Atlanta from all 50 states recognizing such success stories. “During the TRIO achievement honors dinner, we heard about students who came through our programs to become engineers, mechanics, scientists, pharmacists, doctors and even members of Congress,” she said.

The Goal of the TRIO programs at Minneapolis College is to assist youth and adults who are low-income, first-generation college students or have a disability, to enroll in and complete a college program and obtain a credential to make livable wages and create a succession of an educated generation rather than a cycle of poverty.

The recently remodeled TRIO Educational Opportunity Center at Minneapolis will feature an open house from 2 - 4 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 4, for participants, students, faculty and community partners. Everyone can tour the new facilities and receive information about the key aspects of the TRIO programs at Minneapolis College: The TRIO Educational Opportunity Center and Starting Point.

The Educational Opportunity Center assists individuals to:

  • Apply for admission and financial aid
  • Examine career options
  • Choose a college or other training programs
  • Search for scholarships
  • Resolve student loan issues
  • Referrals to social service agencies.

“We do assist our population of high school seniors and adults 19 and above to access postsecondary education.  Adults who don’t have high school or a GED are referred to ABE/GED providers near their residence. We follow up and help them enroll in post-secondary programs,” Nardos said. “It doesn’t have to be a four-year degree. They may say I want to join a program driving trucks and we will find the program for them. We provide admission counseling and find financial aid.

“If they have attended college and took out loans and defaulted on that loan, we help them resolve that to gain re-eligibility for financial aid and return to school. The TRIO program helps interested persons even if they don’t know what they want to major in or if they want a career change or short-term training for new opportunities. For example, restaurant workers, after unemployment, are seeking a better job with benefits. We will find training and assistance for them.”

Nardos administers two federal grants at Minneapolis College through the TRIO Educational Opportunity Center for services in the seven-county Metro area. The west metro grant of \$503,000 covers Hennepin, Anoka, Carver and Scott counites serving 1,650 persons. The east metro grant of \$391,000 includes Ramsey, Dakota and Washington counties for 1,095 individuals.

She supervises seven advisors who carry the Educational Opportunity Center outreach to various communities including two-year colleges, workforce centers, halfway houses and treatment centers.

“Even if they do not have a high school diploma, a GED or have a master’s degree, we don’t turn anybody away without a referral,” Nardos said. “We refer them to our community partner agencies for their needs such as housing, counseling, mentors, legal aid, food security, etc.”

"TRIO is not an acronym," Nardos said. The Federal TRIO Programs are federal outreach and student services programs in the United States designed to identify and provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. They are administered, funded, and implemented by the United States Department of Education. It was funded in 1965 with three programs – Upward Bound, Student Support Services and Educational Talent Search.

“Now there are eight such programs, but the TRIO name was retained for branding purposes,” Nardos said. “The TRIO Educational Opportunity Center and Starting Point are the two programs at Minneapolis College.”

Nardos arrived at Minneapolis College (MCTC at the time) in 1988 from her native Ethiopia on an international student visa and transferred to Augsburg University to pursue her 4-year degree. She started working at Minneapolis College in a temporary role right after graduating from Augsburg and elevated to full-time roles and became an advisor at the TRIO Educational Opportunity and then its director. She has also earned her master’s degree from Minnesota State University, Mankato.

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