TRiO, serving Parkland students since 1997

Photo by Andrew T. Kurtenbach/Prospectus News Mark-Saint McDowell gives students a seminar on the proper ways to improve their study skills on Nov. 18, 2014. Mark is the Academic Coordinator for TRiO/Student Support Services.

Photo by Andrew T. Kurtenbach/Prospectus News
Mark-Saint McDowell gives students a seminar on the proper ways to improve their study skills on Nov. 18, 2014. Mark is the Academic Coordinator for TRiO/Student Support Services.

Humna Sharif
Staff Writer

TRiO, Student Support Services, is a federally funded program at Parkland through the US Department of Education.

“Our program is dedicated to providing academic assistance and personal enrichment to 180 Parkland Students every year,” Director of TRiO Mary Catherine Denmark said. “Our goal is to do whatever needs to be done to help TRiO students graduate from Parkland within three years or transfer to a four year university, and be successful.”

Since its inception in 1997, TRiO has served over 2,000 Parkland students. To be eligible for enrollment in TRiO, a student must be a first generation college student pursuing a bachelor’s degree. Parkland College students who receive the Pell Grant are also eligible to enroll.

“In addition, our TRiO staff works with disability services to provide support to students with disabilities,” Denmark said. “We do however, require our students to be in good academic standing with Parkland, and show the ability to graduate from Parkland within three years, or the desire to transfer to a four year college for the completion of their degree.”

This semester TRiO has 120 students enrolled in the program. Every fall semester TRiO sets aside some seats for students coming to Parkland in the following spring semester, and once the limit of 180 students is reached, no more students can be admitted until the following fall semester.

The services provided by TRiO include individualized tutoring as well as advising and counselling to help students plan out their academic careers. In addition to these services, TRiO also plans visits to Eastern Illinois University, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, and Illinois State University. TRiO also organizes workshops on study skills, time management, and dealing with test anxiety. A spacious study room with computers, printers, and reference books is also available for students.

TRIO has three tutors this semester who focus on helping students with math, reading, writing, and basic sciences including biology, physics, and chemistry.

“However, if we have a student, who needs help with one of the more obscure subjects that our tutors are not familiar with, then we do our very best to hire peer tutors who can then assist the student with studies,” Denmark added.

Enrichment Coordinator Nicole Del Mastro explained that TRiO is a group of people that work together as a team. Her primary responsibility is to make sure that students don’t let their GPA fall below what is required by their degree program. She looks for early warning signs and helps students keep up their good grades.

In addition to that, Del Mastro also works on planning cultural events and is responsible for organizing trips to different universities. On Friday, Nov. 14, TRIO visited Eastern Illinois University. Students interested in transferring to EIU got a tour of the campus, and had the opportunity to have lunch in one of EIU’s dining halls.

“The trips to EIU, UIUC, and other universities close to us really give students a chance to experience what those places really are like. This way students interested in transferring can find out if a certain university is a good fit for them or not,” Del Mastro said.

Like most other student services, TRiO was relocated to the new Student Union building at the beginning of this semester. Both Denmark and Del Mastro commented on the positive impact that moving into the new facility has had on TRiO.

“Before the Student Union building got completed, we had such a small space. Our staff offices, and the multipurpose room for students, were in A and X wings respectively so it was really hard to interact with students on a regular basis,” Denmark commented. “The large new space has really provided us with a chance to work more closely with the students and provide them with better services.”

This semester there are five student workers employed by TRiO. Criminal Justice Major Heyzel Fierro is part of the program; she is also employed as a student worker as well.

“My responsibilities as an employee mainly include receiving phone calls, scheduling appointments with the advisors, and letting the four main staff members know about anything important,” Fierro said. “It’s really not a hard job at all. The good thing about working here is that I get to spend most of my time doing homework and studying. I would really encourage anyone wanting to transfer to another university to come to TRiO.”

Applications for TRIO can be found in room U-252. Students can also e-mail them at or call 217-353-2267.