TRiO is direction.
Upon entering Hawkeye, I felt overwhelmed. Squandering potential I had in my high school years, I entered Hawkeye knowing that I needed a second chance at an education, but had the faintest idea how to move forward from the bottom of the pit—until I walked through an open set of double doors and heard a “good morning” from a smiling employee behind his desk. This particular employee and his staff made my path at Hawkeye simple and coherent with a semester-by-semester plan to get me back on the education track.
TRiO is development.
Despite being structured and planned, my courses at Hawkeye were anything but easy. I still recall having to re-learn high school material on top of college material only to receive mediocre grades. Knowing that I had potential to be much better, some days were more frustrating than others. The thing about education, however, is that it is progressive by nature. The smiling employee behind his desk and his staff worked with me on my math, reading, and writing abilities. Over time, Cs turned into Bs and Bs turned into As. The pit I had dug myself into years prior started to show steps sturdy enough to use as leverage to climb out.
TRiO is home.
As I planted my feet on these steps, I eagerly gazed into a future that appeared more promising. A part of my optimism was to shield myself from a dark life. I lived in an impoverished “apartment” in Washburn outside Waterloo during most of my tenure at Hawkeye. In order to keep a roof over my head and food in my stomach, I worked a full-time job with unpredictable and frequent overtime shifts that deprived me of time needed for rest. My biological family continued to spiral out of control, adding additional grief. When I entered the wide-open double doors with the smiling employee and his staff waiting for me, I knew that, for a moment, I was in a place where my life outside of school could not follow me. I treated TRiO as my home base where I was safe from the outside world; this was paramount for me to shake off my negative situations, making my education goals much easier to achieve.
TRiO is companionship.
I wasn’t the only one from a seemingly unfixable situation and a wild-card at getting an education. There were others like me just as determined as I was to succeed. These people, along with the smiling employee and his staff, became my closest friends and allies during my tenure at Hawkeye.
TRiO is love.
It’s one thing to do your job, but it’s another to be a friend when someone needs it the most. Some issues outside of Hawkeye went from bad to worse. Upon the death of an old mentor, I was stricken by grief, doubt, and depression. With most family members either on bad terms or on the other side of the country, I had nowhere to go except the open set of double doors with the smiling employee. A time period that initially had doubt and depression turned into strong resolve to continue my progress and finish what I started.
Above all else, TRiO is family.
I began as a lost boy frantically searching to pick up the pieces. I am now attending the University of Northern Iowa on scholarship. The end of my undergraduate journey is in sight and hopefully another journey at a top-14 law school will begin. Regardless of the outcome, I know that it is the smiling employee and his staff that is ultimately to thank for helping me achieve these goals.