Completing the journey

TRiO programs assist students from disadvantaged backgrounds progress from middle school to graduate school.

Nahomi Gonzales, Stephanie Raymond and Destiny Flowers-Bland.

April 12, 2023
Contact: Deidra Ashley,
Photo by CJ Harris

The federal TRiO Student Support Services program helps first-generation college students, students from low-income households and students with disabilities succeed academically and graduate from college. At the University of Missouri, the program serves 670 degree-seeking undergraduates each year.

“In terms of economic benefit, a little bit of college is not the same as actually completing the degree,” said TRiO Senior Program Manager Stephanie Raymond. “Our program exists to get students through that finish line so that they can reap all the benefits.”

One of those students is junior Destiny Flowers-Bland. As a first-generation student, Flowers-Bland became eligible for participation in TRiO when she enrolled at Mizzou and was invited to join the program.

Among the communications she received from TRiO was an email notifying her of a scholarship opportunity.

“At the time, I was really worried about paying for school,” said Flowers-Bland, a pre-nursing major. “When I got the email telling me about the scholarship, I quickly filled out the application.’”

You’re not alone

Flowers-Bland received one of several TRiO scholarships, which typically range from $1,000 to $6,000 and are awarded only to Pell Grant recipients in their first or second year of college.

“That scholarship came at the right time because I had no idea how I was going to pay my balance off for the next semester,” Flowers-Bland said.

She said she also received one-on-one help from a TRiO academic advisor, Lisa Scheese. “She is a big part of why I remained in college,” Flowers-Bland said. “She helped me stay organized and was a huge help when it came to informing me about other scholarships.”

TRiO also exposed Flowers-Bland to academic tutoring offered by the Learning Center to all students; workshops on financial literacy, career readiness and study skills; and cultural enrichment opportunities such as the University Concert Series and Columbia’s True/False Film Festival.

“I’m so glad TRiO reached out and helped me,” Flowers-Bland said. “It's important to have programs like TRiO that reach out to first-gen students or students from low-income families to let them know, ‘Even though this is a difficult journey that you're embarking on, you have help. Even though you're away from home, you're not alone.’”

Giving back

Another student who found support thanks to TRiO is senior Nahomi Gonzalez. “Through TRiO, I've been able to find a family here and build connections with people who share the same background,” they said.

As a high schooler, Gonzalez participated in Upward Bound, another U.S. Department of Education TRiO program that helps high school students get into college.

TRiO reached out before Gonzalez’s freshman year in fall 2020 with an invitation to join a freshman interest group to learn about Mizzou essentials — including financial aid and campus dining plans.

The following spring, Gonzalez took a job with TRiO so they could give back. “My initial responsibilities included assisting with the recruitment efforts for the upcoming academic year. However, the enjoyment of working with our students and the collaborative workplace motivated me to stay,” they said.

“TRiO has allowed me to excel and join a support system that wants me to be successful,” Gonzalez said. "I've been able to find a family here at MU and build some valuable connections with remarkable individuals. I can’t imagine starting my college experience without it.”

Story written by Jesse Berlin

TRiO-eligible students should receive an email from TRiO Student Support Services inviting them to apply for admission before their freshman year. Students may also be referred to the TRiO Student Support Services program by their academic advisors. For questions about eligibility, contact or stop by the TRiO offices in 110 Student Success Center (on Lowry Mall).


Subscribe to

Show Me Mizzou

Stay up-to-date with the latest news by subscribing to the Show Me Mizzou newsletter.