By Laura Acuff, Student Reporter
ACU TRIO programs, which promote higher education among disadvantaged students, offered free soft drinks and released balloons in front of Moody Coliseum after Chapel on Monday in celebration of Columbus Day with the help of ACU and Abilene High School students who participate in the programs.
“It’s Columbus Day, and so we need something to get big attention,” said Mark Upton, director of the Educational Talent Search Program. “As we release the balloons, we get everybody excited about soaring and flying and everything going up, so it’s a real positive move. It’s the concept of discovering what may be out there. These balloons will go anywhere. There’s really no limit to where they’ll end up, so what we try to do, metaphorically, is show the kids that there’s no limit to their education – that they can go anywhere they want to go.”
The Talent Search Program, Upward Bound, Student Support Services offered through Alpha Programs and the McNair Scholars Program are all grantfunded programs within TRIO. The Talent Search Program and Upward Bound work through the public school system, while SSS and the McNair Scholars Program are campus-based, Upton said.
Sarah Peters, freshman special education major from Austin, participated in Monday’s balloon release and is part of the Alpha Program, which assists first-generation students, students with financial need or those with a documented disability.
“I think [the program] is awesome because I can go there and take tests, and there’s free tutoring, which is really nice,” Peters said. “Everything’s free, so it’s really helpful.”
Talent Search Program participant Rebecca Gindratt, Abilene High School sophomore, has been involved in TRIO programs since the sixth grade. The Talent Search Program assists promising students in answering questions about college and deciding which is right for them.
“It’s been good,” Gindratt said. “It’s fun. [We] went on a lot of trips to different colleges. I think [the balloon] release was real cool. We helped blow some of the balloons up. It was fun being a part of it.”
Another Talent Search Program participant Zach Gonzales, AHS sophomore, also appreciates the program’s perks. The safe community offered on some campuses appeals to Gonzales, and while he doesn’t have any one university in mind now, because of the program, he knows he wants to attend one eventually.
“I guess [The Talent Search Program] helps motivate students to do better things in their life and not just slack off, and it makes you want to be something and not a no one,” Gonzales said. “In sixth grade, I didn’t really care much about school. I figured I would drop out, and now I have straight A’s, so I think it’s made a big improvement in my life.”