Estella Gutierrez is the Vice President of Student Services and Diversity at Truckee Meadows Community College, which recently received Student Support Services (SSS) grant money through the Federal TRIO Programs which were created following passage of the Higher Education Act of 1965. There are eight types of grants within the TRIO Programs.
“We’re very fortunate as an institution,” Gutierrez said. “TRIO grants are very difficult. They’re very competitive, especially new grants. We do have the first TRIO grant, which is the Veterans’ Upward Bound Program—and that grant specifically helps veterans, and it’s kind of like a bridge to college. We’re very fortunate that we’re, I think, the only one in the state that has that.”
With the new SSS funding, TMCC will be receiving approximately $261,000 a year for the next five years to also aid first-generation students and students with disabilities.
“Essentially we are going to be helping approximately 140 students,” Gutierrez said. “So, we’ll take them under our wing and provide them with opportunities for academic development.
“For first-generation students, just like myself, oftentimes they come from parents that don’t know how to navigate college, and so we do that. We’ll help this specific group navigate college. And we’ll wrap our services around them.”
To manage the SSS grant program and help students, TMCC will use the funds to hire a director and a coordinator.
“We want to make sure that they graduate,” Gutierrez said. “If they’re undecided, we try to help them find those resources, the counseling resources and career services. The mission is for that program to specifically help 140 students go through and complete their degrees or their wishes as to whether or not they’re going to transfer.”
The director and coordinator will track students’ progress in school and help them navigate things like applying for financial aid. Gutierrez said the coordinator will act as a counselor for the students.
“We’re going to do a lot of workshops,” she said. “We’re going to do group activities. TRIO is known to be like a family…It’s providing that extra help to these students—making sure that we provide even motivational types of stuff to keep students in school, and using technology to make sure we’re tracking them and they don’t get lost.”
The goal is for students to enroll in any of TMCC’s two-year degree programs and graduate within that timeframe. Gutierrez said she expects many will do so with the goal of transferring to the University of Nevada, Reno, and enrolling in its TRIO SSS grant program afterward.
“That was the missing link, I think, for a long time,” she said. “There are a lot of students that come to our doors and then…go to the university. But then there’s a lot of students who are still undecided, and that’s where we come in. And I think that having TRIO at TMCC, it’s a natural bridge from our TRIO program to transfer to the university.”
Gutierrez said TMCC will begin recruiting students to participate in the program sometime this semester after they’ve hired a director and coordinator to support the program’s activities.
As a first-generation college student herself from a family that immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico, she said she’s quite excited for the program.
“I was a migrant student,” Gutierrez said. “My parents were immigrants, and I worked on the farms…We were considered migrant because we’d move from state to state. And if it weren’t for the migrant counselor at a community college, I don’t know what I would have done. I am a believer in community college. And the reality is, I think, that community colleges are becoming more and more important.”