As President Jeffrey von Arx, S.J., attempts to increase diversity at Fairfield University, programs like the TRIO Programs help the efforts.

Fairfield University hosts the TRIO Programs, which are sponsored by the United States Department of Education. These programs, which include Upward Bound, Project Excel and Academic Talent Search serve low-income and first-generation college students. TRIO Programs are a great source of support to these students, according to participants and project coordinators.

Some of these students go on to attend Fairfield University. Project Excel provides support to Fairfield University students who are first-generation college students, low-income, or who have a documented disability.

“Project Excel gave me confidence in my ability to perform and achieve tasks,” said Alexandra Galeano, a Fairfield graduate and research specialist at Fisher International Inc. in Norwalk, Conn. “Project Excel helped me keep focus, taught me to study and helped me on my journey through college. The help I received shaped me into a stronger person,” she said.

Project Excel, which is part of the Student Support Services, provides group tutoring, mentoring programs, assistance for financial aid and internships, career counseling, academic advising, exposure to cultural and educational events and summer courses.

“We make students aware of opportunities which are out there, and we let them know that there are a lot of things which they can do,” said Caridad Rivera, coordinator of Project Excel. “We are like case managers. Whatever we don’t have we point students in the right direction.”

In collaboration with Fairfield departments such as Admissions, Financial Aid, the coaching staff and Student Support Services, Project Excel does all it can in order to help students with whatever needs they may have.

Project Excel has been successful in leading students in the right direction. Graduates go on to a variety of institutions such as Yale divinity school, five-year masters program at Fairfield, and various businesses in Fairfield County, said Rivera.

All TRIO Programs, including Project Excel, is in need of tutors and will be opening a new center in Bannow, according to Rivera.

The primary objective of Upward Bound is to prepare students for higher education. Upward Bound provides support to first-generation, low-income students, ages 13 to 19, who are college bound. Upward Bound focuses on students in the local public high schools in Bridgeport, Conn.

Upward Bound is hands-on with their students, said Project Coordinator Rony Delva. The program provides tutoring, Saturday classes at Fairfield University, a summer program, college tours, PSAT and SAT preparation, time management and study skills, career fairs, cultural field trips and other extra-curricular activities.

“These activities enhance the social skills of the students and expose them to things they would not be exposed to otherwise,” said Delva. “Upward Bound is a holistic and comprehensive program, which is student-centered. We help students with every aspect of education, making them productive citizens in society.”

Upward Bound graduates have gone to Yale, Fordham and Cornell, to name a few. More than 80 percent of the graduating class attends college, and 80 percent of the graduating class graduate from college, said Delva.

“We follow-up with our students with an annual performance report,” said Delva. “We help our student set goals and to look at education as success beyond poverty.”

Academic Talent Search targets low-income, first-generation college bound students in Bridgeport between the ages of 11 and 27. Academic Talent Search helps motivate these students to finish high school and enroll in college. Services include tutoring, mentoring, academic advising, career exploration, college placement, cultural field trips and financial aid workshops.

“The program gives these students one more person to turn to,” said Project Coordinator Steven Ruple. “It is hard for them to break out of the culture of their environment and into college without many examples of success.”

Since Academic Talent Search is in desperate need of tutors, Ruple assists in the after-school tutoring of the students.

“We are minor players within the network of schools, teachers and parents,” said Ruple. “We try to reinforce their efforts.”

Academic Talent Search begins recruiting in the sixth grade.

“If you plant the seed early, they want it for themselves,” said Ruple. “We try and reinforce the concept that college offers more opportunities.”

Academic Vice President Orin Grossman sees the TRIO programs as a great success at Fairfield.

“The TRIO programs at Fairfield have done terrific work,” said Grossman. “They are one of the most important ways we work with the city of Bridgeport as well as support diversity on campus.”

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