TRIO Student Support Services program celebrates almost five decades at NMSU

WRITER: Tiffany Acosta, 575-646-3929,
CONTACT: Carol Hicks, 575-646-7485,

For nearly 50 years, the TRIO Student Support Services program at New Mexico State University has helped students. 

The federally funded program was authorized in 1968 and established at NMSU three years later. TRIO SSS serves first generation, low income and students with disabilities. At NMSU 350 students are assisted annually, and the program focuses on academic success, mentoring and tutoring. Since 1999, the program has worked with almost 7,000 students. 

For 2016 graduate Maria Gomez, TRIO SSS help her earn two bachelor’s degrees, in Spanish and family and consumer science education. 

“I used the TRIO SSS program to help me stay on track with my college courses,” she said. “I had a peer mentor through all my three years in TRIO who met with me once a month. We went over my grades and any goals for the semester. I also had a peer tutor who helped me prepare for my teacher state exams.”

Gomez, who is the teacher academy and culinary arts teacher at Hatch Valley High School, used resources such as the TRIO computer lab and study area as well. 

“TRIO staff was always supportive and always willing to help us if we were facing any problems academically and personal,” Gomez said. 

NMSU celebrated First-Generation Recognition Day at Corbett Center Nov. 8. 

Information engineering technology junior Oscar A. Olivas is a first-generation student who understands the challenges attending college can pose. 

“TRIO is great because it provides a good support system that helps you survive and graduate school,” he said. “For me, it is hard being a first-generation student and having to be alone in my endeavors, but TRIO has helped me in whatever I need from just emotional support to educational help.”

TRIO SSS recruits 100 new students each year, both freshmen and transfer students like Olivas, who arrived at NMSU to pursue a bachelor’s degree after earning two associate degrees from El Paso Community College. As a College of Engineering student Olivas was required to take courses such as calculus and chemistry.

“I had not done either one since I was in high school and so TRIO gave me a tutor for both materials. If it wasn’t for the tutor I know I would have greatly struggled and probably might not have passed the classes,” he said. 

Carol Hicks, TRIO SSS director, said helping students navigate the college environment is a major aspect of the program’s mission. 

“A lot of the processes are so daunting,” Hicks said. “Students don’t know what to do. That’s the whole thing about first generation – no one else in your family has gone and you don’t know where to start. 

“We try to empower them and give them the information, so they can make informed decisions about their education,” she said. 

Hicks oversees a small staff of three full-time staff coordinators along with 11 mentors and 12 tutors. 

“I’m very proud of my staff because it takes a lot of caring, a lot of work, a lot of persistence and working with the students to see where they are and bringing them up to a certain point. And making sure they have the resources to succeed, making sure they realize they can succeed – a lot of it is self-image,” she said. 

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