Francisca Benitez

Student Support Services is a program that has been at EOU since 2016. Part of TRIO, a federal program, it helps students who face barriers in college make the most out of their time and feel supported.

TRIO originally had three programs, hence the name. The programs were Upward Bound, Talent Search and SSS. The federal program has expanded since its inception in 1968 and now has eight programs, but the name TRIO stuck.

The EOU TRIO program is Student Support Services, or SSS. The program is for students who are first-generation college students, are disabled, are lower-income or are disadvantaged in some other way.

SSS offers many services such as seminars that teach about topics like applying for scholarships or financial aid and how to stay mentally and physically healthy. Other services include tutoring, equipment rentals like calculators and laptops, and even printing services. Students also get academic advising and help planning what to do after college.

There is a room on the EOU campus where students in SSS can come and study, speak to an SSS adviser, chat or just relax. This provides an opportunity for students to meet and support one another.

The SSS advisers are there to guide students in whatever way they need, even if what they need is just someone to talk to.

Michael Williams, EOU TRIO/SSS advisor, brought the SSS program to EOU in 2016. He has a special connection to the program, as he used it himself when he was attending community college in Arkansas as a nontraditional student, having worked and served in the military after high school.

He said he was struggling with math and was told he should try out SSS. The program set him up with a math tutor.

“That tutor was really great, really kind and he kind of helped me through,” he said.

Williams excelled in school and transferred to the University of Arkansas, where he received an undergraduate degree and a master’s degree in science education. He also received a degree in community college teaching.

Williams said he quickly became a tutor himself through SSS in Arkansas, in many subjects — including math.

“Once I started out being a tutor with SSS, I never left,” he said. Berenice Chavez Meraz is a senior at EOU studying art and anthropology. She said SSS has been instrumental in her success in school.

“Now that I’ve come to college and I’m in TRIO I can’t picture my college experience without it,” she said.

Chavez Meraz said the tutoring and seminars were extremely helpful, but the thing that helped her the most was having someone to talk to.

“Yes, we have our professors who we can also go to for advice, but they can get really busy. So the fact that we have these people who we can go to for advice and mental support and to talk to almost like counselors is just really nice. They always have their door open,” she said.

Williams said he helps students through so many different kinds of problems that there is no such thing as a typical day for him. He said students come in sometimes and just need to cry, while others need someone to celebrate their successes with.

See complete story in Wednesday's Observer