On September 1, five outstanding TRIO alumni were honored at COE’s 11th Annual Educational Opportunity Dinner. Henry Bonilla, former member of Congress, partner of The Normandy Group, and a Talent Search alumnus from Project Stay, Inc., served as the master of ceremonies. This year’s awardees represented TRIO programs in California, Kansas, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Texas.

José Cruz, executive director at the Barrio Logan College Institute (BCLI), is an alumnus of the McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program at San Diego State University. While growing up, he wasn’t expected to graduate from high school, let alone college—and became obsessed with figuring out why he made it while others with similar backgrounds didn’t. “My research through the McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program showed that role models may have an impact on how Latino students see themselves as academic achievers. I went to college because I had role models and my friends didn’t.” Today, Cruz succeeds in providing these key supports to local youth as 100% of the high school graduates of the BCLI College Access Program go on to enroll in college, with a 90% persistence rate.

Marco Davila is an associate member of the Department of Blood and Marrow Transplantation at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute and Associate Professor in the Department of Oncologic Sciences, Morsani College of Medicine at the University of South Florida. He participated in the McNair Scholars Program at Texas Christian University. Through his research, he has established a treatment that affords patients with certain forms of acute leukemia a 200% greater chance of remission. Today, Davila works to provide the same type of support for his students as he received through the McNair Postbacclaureate Achievement Program. “I am extremely grateful for the support of the TRIO programs and demonstrate my gratitude by training the next generation of scientists that come from backgrounds where goals are truly dreams and not a birthright.”

Jacquelyn Elliott is the president of Central Arizona College and an alumna of the Upward Bound program at Emporia State University. She said that in high school, she believed that since her family was poor, college wasn’t for her. Her first visit to the Upward Bound office gave her a sense of belonging and made her feel hopeful and optimistic about her future. Throughout her career as an educator and now as a college leader, she continues to share that same message of encouragement with others. “I am proud to be a product of Upward Bound, and I share my story with the TRIO students at my college because I want them to know that through TRIO, they can achieve anything they dream of achieving.”

Harry Lee Williams, president of Delaware State University, participated in the Student Support Services program at Appalachian State University. He said that Student Support Services took him under its wing and kept him on track—and without it, he might have stumbled academically and possibly fallen through the cracks. “It wasn’t until I became a higher education administrator that I came to understand the full breadth of TRIO. I have since come to know countless students who were blessed with the support of a TRIO program, many of whom—like me—credit such support as having great and positive impact on their subsequent academic and career success.”

Victor Woolridge, vice president of Cornerstone Real Estate and chairman of the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees, is an alumnus of the Upward Bound program at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. He says that Upward Bound was influential in his life, providing him with character development, aspirations for the future, and a more meaningful appreciation of the pursuit of knowledge. “I’m grateful for the opportunity that Upward Bound provided to me and to the University of Massachusetts which educated me. I hope to continue to dedicate myself to its continued growth and excellence so that others might have access to the same opportunities that I’ve had.”

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