Cal Lutheran TRIO students visit Congress

The TRIO Upward Bound program has been impacting students each year through the opportunities it provides for a good education and a great life.

“TRIO is a federally funded, equal opportunity program that helps low income, first generation high school students,” Chris Opzeeland, director CVP of  Upward Bound at Cal Lutheran said.

TRIO Upward Bound was established at California Lutheran University in 1980 and has worked with students from the Oxnard Unified High School District. This helps to prepare students for a successful college experience, which will later help them become successful in life. The program is free for low-income high school students or students who will be the first in their family to go to college and includes tutoring services, mentoring programs, help with college applications and the college entrance process, as well as a six-week summer academic program to trial college life with real college classes for a chance to get elective credit for high school.

Cal Lutheran has two Upward Bound programs and one math and science Upward Bound program. Once these high school students make it through the program and are accepted into college, they can become a part of Student Support Services, which helps the students through their college experiences.

An important part of keeping these programs going is reminding Congress how successful its students are and the impact that the programs have made on their lives. This is why Cal Lutheran funds an annual trip to D.C. so students can tell their success stories and how much TRIO has made an impact on their lives.

“We walk the hill and we actually talk to each individual congressman and we tell them, this is the impact and the student successes because of the TRIO programs and they’re becoming college graduates and productive citizens for the future,” Opzeeland said.

A couple of these success stories can be seen through seniors Jaynessa Lopez and Andrew Castro, who went to D.C. to talk to Congress about their experiences in both the Upward Bound program as well as Student Support Services.

“What we were going to do was tell our story of success and how TRIO helps us, because that’s something that helps a lot in terms of getting congressmen and senators to vote for the bill that’s going to increase the budget and it will restore students that have been lost through budget cuts,” Castro said.

“We were there with staff from our upward bound program and our student support services here on campus and so they would start off talking to the congressmen or women about the program and what TRIO does and we were asking for $80 million to make up for the 90,000 students that were lost in the past decade.” Lopez added.

Despite the factors that have hindered them, both students are graduating in May and look forward to getting their masters degree to continue bettering their futures.

“I do it for my younger sisters. I have a 13 year old and a 4 year old younger sister and my mom’s really ill again so I’m helping raise them,” Lopez said. “They’re my driving factor to finish my education because there’s been times where you want to give up but I knew that at the end of the day you just, you have to get through it and it’s all going to be worth it. And for me just being able to show my sisters that we can have a better life despite the things we’ve had to go through with our family and upbringing.”

McKay Weiler
Staff Writer
Published April 13th, 2016