U.S. House Rep. Eric Burlison of Missouri, front left, poses for a photo on Capitol Hill with students and staff members from Columbia College’s TRiO Student Support Services program. Front row, left to right: Rep. Burlison and Joey Senevey. Back row: Lina Snyder, TRiO Director Kim Kinyon Coke, Allison Simmons, TRiO Advisor Heather Frisbey and Nicholas Horne.

Students and staff from Columbia College’s TRiO Student Support Services (SSS) program ventured to Washington, D.C., this spring to explore our nation’s capital and advocate for the TRiO SSS program on a national level.

Four students and two staff members made the trip from March 17-23, as the students shared their personal stories about TRiO’s impact in supporting them on their educational journey.

“Oh, what a trip!” says Kim Kinyon Coke, director of TRiO SSS at Columbia College. “We came, we explored, we connected, we made a difference. As costs continue to rise and considerations for budgeting become more intense, our TRiO delegation wanted to remind our politicians of the faces behind their decisions. Our students carried a message of hope and impact.”

TRiO SSS is a federally-funded program, administered by the Department of Education, aimed at encouraging eligible students to complete their college degrees. The program supports first-generation students as well as those who meet federal income guidelines or have documented physical, learning or mental health disabilities. Eligible four-year CC Day Program students receive free tutoring, mentoring and educational workshops in addition to career support.

Members of the Missouri TRiO delegation pose for a photo at the Library of Congress. Front row: Joey Senevey. Back row, left to right: Heather Frisbey, Kim Kinyon Coke, Amari Clifton, Allison Simmons and Lina Snyder.

On the recent trip, CC students joined with other students from Missouri to meet with elected officials who serve in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives. The group spoke with the Chair of the House Budget Committee, Rep. Joey Arrington of Texas, about the importance of education for students from low-income communities to escape poverty and change their trajectory.

The Missouri delegation’s specific requests of Congress included additional funding for TRiO to cover cost-of-living increases; additional funding to create 55 new TRiO SSS programs nationally; expeditious movement on correcting Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) challenges related to information that informs students of their TRiO eligibility; and timely notification of TRiO grant awards.

CC received a $1.38 million grant in 2020 to provide funding for TRiO SSS for five years. That was the fourth time the program at CC has received a grant renewal since its establishment in 2001. The college is currently seeking another five-year renewal of the impactful grant.

“The intention of our advocacy is to keep the TRiO story fresh in the minds of those voting on funding measures that keep our programs afloat,” Coke says. “Beyond our asks, the importance of the relationship-building that took place was priceless. Our students were our champions, sharing their stories and representing TRiO and Columbia College in authentic and impactful ways.”