By Michael Freeman, Managing Editor
Flashes of purple and white briefly dotted Monday afternoon’s gray overcast sky as ACU TRiO members released more than 700 balloons into the air. The purple and white balloons took flight as part of the third annual Columbus Day balloon release in front of Moody Coliseum, which was meant to endorse TRiO and its theme for this year “Discovery of the New World of Education.”
“We do this to promote the concept of TRiO students to those folks who may not know us,” said Mark Upton, director of the Talent Search Program. “And to continually keep our name in front of people, helping them understand how we help the students in Abilene and how we help the students on campus. It’s also a nice way to promote ACU for our high school students.”
ACU TRiO programs, which include the Educational Talent Search Program, Upward Bound, the Alpha Scholars Program and the McNair Scholars Program, cater to middle school, high school and college students by helping low-income, first-generation college and disabled students with counseling, tutoring, test preparation, research techniques and internships.
“By hosting those four grants, [students] are able to start in the sixth grade here in Abilene, and we can assist them all the way through their PhD,” Upton said.
Six high school sophomore students from Abilene High School and Cooper High School attended the balloon release as well as Monday’s Chapel and toured campus before returning to school.
More than 1,000 students in the Abilene area currently are enrolled in one of TRiO’s four programs. The Department of Education supports the programs, all of which are grant-funded by the government.
Members from TRiO began inflating balloons at 8 a.m. Monday. When Chapel ended, more than 700 balloons had been prepared. After the balloon release, students partook of the about 1,000 soft drinks TRiO offered.
“Today’s balloon release was a ‘Discovery of the New World’ as we discover the new world of education for our students,” Upton said. “The balloons represent that the sky is the limit.”