Office of TRIO Student Support Services receives grant to increase awareness of program

Director of the Office of TRIO Student Support Services Frances I. Welch, left, and Assistant Director Vashaun South.

The Office of TRIO Student Support Services at Northwestern State University has received a $500 First-Generation College Celebration grant from the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) and the Center for First-Generation Student Success. Director of the Office of TRIO Student Support Services Frances I. Welch said NSU was one of just 50 recipients out of thousands of applicants nationwide and the only college or university in Louisiana to receive the grant.

The Student Support Services (SSS) program is a federal TRIO program that works to support students who are first-generation, low-income or students with disabilities who have potential to meet the challenges of higher education by strengthening and developing their academic and self-management skills. Its offices are in the Kyser Hall, Room 243-B. During the 2020-2021 academic year, 41.3 percent of undergraduate students and 50.1 percent of graduate students attending Northwestern State identified as first-generation.

The grant will allow the office to reach more first-generation students through a multi-day celebration to not only highlight these students but to emphasize the strength it takes to be the first in a family to attend college, according to Assistant Director of TRIO Student Support Service Vashaun South, who wrote the successful grant proposal.

Events will begin with a “Meet Them Where They Are” program on Oct. 31 from 10 a.m. – noon on the brick way near Kyser Hall. Students will receive candy bags with an attached agenda of the First-Generation College Celebration Week’s events.

Three rounds of “Jeopardy: The College Edition” will be held on Oct. 31 – Nov. 2 at 5 p.m. in the President’s Room of the Friedman Student Union with the finals on Nov. 8 at 5 p.m. The championship round is being held on National First-Generation College Celebration Day. The Jeopardy game will be designed around questions that deliver information about the “who, what, where” resources can be found, highlight prominent formal first-generation students, drop out factors and fun facts.

There will be a “Chat and Chow” Breakfast on Nov. 2 from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. in Iberville Dining Hall.

A “Deck the Doors” program is on Nov. 7 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Varnado Hall. “Deck the Doors” is an opportunity for our first-generation students to express themselves by making individualized doorhangers.

In addition to the effort to reach more first-generation students, South said Student Support Services will launch the “I’m First and Here’s Why I’m Worth It” campaign. In this initiative, personal stories will be gathered from faculty, staff and students who are all first-generation college students This is a print campaign that will include a photo and story on each individual. The posters will be displayed throughout campus to highlight the challenges and celebrate the achievements of being first-generation.

Northwestern State began participating in the annual National First-Generation College Celebration in 2019 when the university received its first grant that allowed it to participate.

“A majority of what we do is achieved through cross campus collaboration and partnerships,” said South. “We recognize that student success is more achievable when we all work together. With such a large number of our student population identifying as first-generation, it is imperative that we celebrate and highlight those individuals while shining a light on what it means to be first-generation and educating those who may not know the significance of the challenges and achievements of said individuals.”

For more information on the Office of TRIO Student Support Services, go to