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Students rally to promote federal program

Prin Mayowa

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Rico Ramirez, Kory Masen, Caren Fernandez and Paulina Belmontes celebrate National TRiO Day Feb. 21 in Sacramento with an assembly plaque.Photo credit: Prin Mayowa

High school and college students across California rallied at the state Capitol on Feb. 21 for National TRiO Day.

TRiO is set of government-funded programs that provide a support staff to disadvantaged students throughout their university careers to ensure success. National TRiO Day is celebrated Feb. 21 with a rally, and a city councilor gives an assembly plaque to a TRiO chapter.

Chico took the plaque this year.

Chico State’s own Kory Masen, a junior sociology and multicultural and gender studies double major, has benefited from TRiO’s programs and spoke at the event, which an estimated 262 TRiO beneficiaries attended.

During his speech, Masen talked about how he never imagined doing something as big as speaking at the state Capitol.

When I was a senior at Southwest High School, crossing the border every day from Tijuana to San Diego just to get to class, I would’ve never thought I’d be standing before you on the steps of the state Capitol,” he said.

The TRiO programs gave him the drive and support to look to higher education and fulfill dreams that he never thought were possible, Masen said.

“Three years ago I was a teenage girl disowned by her family, living out of the kindness of friends and washing windows to pay for basic needs,” Masen said. “I was full of ambition with no realistic way of achieving my dreams. And now I stand before you as a queer transgender man of color.”

Masen represents Chico State as the Associated Students vice president of facilities and services.

“I have an amazing job in student government as the vice president of a $27 million corporation,” Masen said. “I have had amazing experiences and opportunities, and every day I am closer to achieving my goals and becoming the person I want to be.”

Masen attributes his success to TRiO because it gave him access to an entire network of professionals across the university, he said.

TRiO has given me the opportunity to overcome adversity in the pursuit of a higher education,” Masen said.

TRiO is an umbrella program that includes Upward Bound, Talent Search and Student Support Services. Caren Fernandez, director of Student Support Services, is a key part of TRiO’s efforts on campus.

“I started work with Student Support Services in 2006,” Fernandez said. “Being a first-generation low-income student myself, I understand that going away to college for the first time can be scary.”

Students cannot be recruited, but they are contacted via email. They must be first-generation, low-income or have a documented disability. Fernandez keeps an open door policy in case students need her, she said.

“Most of our students have our personal phone numbers so they can contact us,” Fernandez said. “We want them to know that someone is here for them.”

Prin Mayowa can be reached at features [email protected] or @PrinSupreme on Twitter.

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Students rally to promote federal program