June 18, 2012 — Jean Karutis
Imagine, for a moment, you are in a foreign country. Further imagine that you have to navigate unfamiliar roads with directional signs, in a language you don’t understand, to find a designated meeting place where you will receive an opportunity for a financially secure future. Many others are traveling the same roads in search of the same meeting place. Some of your fellow travelers are like you; unfamiliar with the roads, unable to afford a GPS to map their way, and unable to decipher road signs. Other travelers have distinct advantages; they speak the language and have sophisticated GPS devices that track their every turn ensuring the shortest possible route. These travelers get to the destination on time and even early in some cases. You and your fellow beleaguered travelers get lost along the way, with some of you arriving late and some never arriving at all. The journey for you has been frustrating and you feel the deck is stacked against you through no fault of your own.
This scenario is the typical experience of low income students who are the first in their families to attend college. They have the ability and desire for a college education but they lack the financial and navigational skills to achieve it. Some of these students do successfully plot a course through the college process on their own. However, the majority complete their college journeys later than their middle class peers and many never achieve their degrees at all. Fortunately, for these students who attend Fulton-Montgomery Community College, the TRiO Student Support Services (SSS) can assist them along their journey.
TRiO SSS is funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Students in the program receive one-on-one academic counseling and advice tailored to their needs. Additionally, SSS students get assistance with completing federal student aid forms (FAFSA) and materials related to financial literacy in order to better understand and plan their college finances and minimize their student loan debt. The TRiO Study Lab in the Evan’s Library is available to them for tutoring support and as an oasis on campus with additional computers, printers, photocopier, and lounge area for their exclusive use. All this helps to create an atmosphere of community for students where they no longer feel like “foreigners,” but begin to feel like they “belong” just like their middle class peers.
This sense of community helps SSS students to navigate unfamiliar territory in the foreign land of higher education. It also helps them to complete their journey and arrive at that designated meeting place; the achievement of a college diploma, on time, and with as little financial burden as possible. Through TRiO Student Support Services at FM, students gain the opportunity for a successful future. To find out if you qualify for assistance or to learn more about services available through TRiO SSS at FM, please contact me at 518-736-FMCC (3622), ext. 8904.
Jean Karutis is Director of TRiO/HEALTH Grant Programs at FM.