Angela Jimenez had her fears.
Her parents hadn't talked with her about going to college. And until high school, she hadn't even known anyone who'd been.
Was she ready for the academics and other challenges?
Now, as a freshman at UC Davis, the 18-year-old from Sacramento is enjoying the support of a program for students who are from low-income families, are in the first generation of their family to attend university or have disabilities.
"I was really scared about going into college," says Jimenez, who is embarking on a major in environmental science and management. "It's been really good. Some of the pressure just came off my shoulders."
Network of support and services
With the recent renewal of a $1.2 million grant, the TRiO Scholars Program is providing 160 students like Jimenez with a network of support and services — including academic advising and tutoring — to help them stay in school, succeed and graduate.
The program's four-week summer component, running through Sept. 11, is helping Jimenez get ready for the start of fall classes on Sept. 24. Living in a residence hall, she attends review courses in writing, math and chemistry; workshops in study skills and campus resources; and panel discussions with current students and graduates.
Once doubting her ability to succeed at university, Jimenez says she has learned about time management, tutoring services and the library study area that is open around the clock. "I'm not going to give up, because I have the support and resources," she says.
"Here I have the courage to ask," she adds. "Just being here is helping me build confidence."
Programs serve various communities
Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, the TRiO program is among several UC Davis programs to enhance learning and promote social engagement and personal development for those in various student communities — including former foster youth, first-generation college students and others underrepresented in higher education.
Donelle Davis, director of the TRiO program at UC Davis, said first-generation and low-income students are more likely to have difficulty understanding and assimilating to the university environment.
They also face significant financial pressures. In fall 2014, eligible students had an average household income of $21,000, and 72 percent received Pell Grants, needs-based federal aid for low-income students.
Students who qualify for the TRiO program — thousands more than can be served by it — lag other UC Davis students in their average grade point average, as well as retention and graduate rates.
In its first four years, however, the TRiO program brought participants' retention rates to 97 percent, compared with 85 percent for those who were eligible but didn't participate. Graduate rates for participants were 81 percent, compared with 71 percent for eligible but nonparticipating students.
The summer component helps TRiO students get off to a good start. Participants also get guidance to create a plan not only for their studies, but also for tutoring needs, finances, career development and more. Through their undergraduate years, program staff members meet with students and monitor their progress.
The TRiO program also organizes workshops and social events and encourages participants to get involved in campus life, such as student organizations. And it fosters community among the participants.
Joey Llewellyn, a first-generation and low-income student from Clear Lake, California, says he's already bonded with other TRiO students. "We share a common struggle and a common ground," says Llewellyn, who plans to change from a sociology major to biological sciences.
Llewellyn on video (46 seconds): http://tinyurl.com/pftho9q
"With that common ground we can build a supportive and a welcoming community that I find reassuring as a college student," he adds. "I can't imagine where I'd be without the program."
"Everyone's trying to get to know each other," says Jimenez, who regularly eats with fellow TRiO participants and explores the campus and downtown Davis with them. "They make it seem like they were already your family waiting here for you."
Some 8,000 new freshmen and transfer students are expected to be among a total estimated enrollment of about 36,000 students at UC Davis for the fall quarter.
* TRiO Scholars Program <http://success.ucdavis.edu/programs/trio/>
* Student Academic Success Center <http://success.ucdavis.edu/index.html>
Angela Jimenez had her fears.