REACHING OUT - Rend Lake College TRIO Director Leah Stallman talks to students Clarence Thorpe of Mt. Vernon and Susan Hrindich of McLeansboro (LEFT). Both are students involved in the Student Transfer and Retention Support program at the college. The program helps students make a successful transfer from RLC to a four-year university. STARS at RLC was recently among 1,026 U.S. Department of Education grants approved for continued funding. CLICK HERE for a larger image.
INA, Ill. – TRIO programming at Rend Lake College has been given the green light for five more years of federal funding. The news means many college students in the area can breathe easy, knowing that they will continue to enjoy and benefit from TRIO programming at RLC.
RLC’s was one of 1,026 Student Support Services grants awarded by the U.S. Department of Education, which received 1,475 applications. RLC was awarded $275,680 each year for five years.
“We are extremely happy to be able to continue to provide these services to Rend Lake College students,” said RLC TRIO Program Director Leah Stallman, who worked on writing the SSS grant with Resource Development Specialist Ed Ruffino.
TRIO umbrellas eight federal programs, including two offered at RLC – Upward Bound and SSS. RLC’s name for its SSS program is Student Transfer and Retention Support, or STARS.
STARS is designed to help eligible students make the most of their college years by offering counseling and academic support that may be needed to successfully complete a college degree and transfer to a four-year university. The STARS program assists 160 students each year at RLC. But, as Stallman explained, STARS support doesn’t stop at academics.
“We provide a wide-range of services – from workshops, tutoring, and academic and personal counseling to university tours, and calculator and laptop loan programs. The main group of students we work with are those who are low-income, disabled or first-generation college students. It’s a very important thing, especially in this area where out of 10 RLC students, seven are first-generation and more than half are low-income. We try to take a holistic approach to our students. We want to look at everything going on in their lives when they come in. No matter what they want to talk to us about, we are there for them. We are just thrilled to be able to provide services and additional support to that group of students.”
One of those students is freshman Clarence Thorpe of Mt. Vernon. Transitioning to STARS from the Upward Bound program, the 19-year-old said his work with TRIO staff to develop good study habits, as well as getting a laptop to use, has been a great help in his first semester of college.
“I can’t just say one specific thing has helped me,” he said. “They have helped me with a lot of things. Even personal problems.”
Another STARS student, 37-year-old Susan Hrindich of McLeansboro, shares Thorpe’s feelings about the program. Leaving behind a troubled past, Hrindich is working with STARS staff to achieve her goal of a college degree.
“... Through the staff and fabulous counselors of the STARS division at Rend Lake College, I realized that I not only had two beautiful little girls to offer this world but I had experience and wisdom that could possibly help change a person’s life before it is too late,” Hrindich stated.
RLC was awarded a TRIO SSS grant for the first time in 1997. Developed in 1965 under Title IV of the Higher Education and Cooperation Act, the SSS grant has grown to more than 900 programs serving college students nationwide.
TRIO programs had their beginnings in the nation’s War on Poverty in the 1960s. The first program, Upward Bound, was created as part of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. Upward Bound began with 17 pilot programs in the summer of 1965 and served 2,061 low-income high school students.
Today, more than 870,000 students are served through TRIO programs, which receive $828.2 million in federal funding.
STARS at RLC stretches every dollar toward serving students. Four staff members – two full-time counselors, a part-time administrative assistant and Stallman – are responsible for managing 160 cases, planning activities, budgeting and much more.
“It takes a lot of time, work and planning to make this program go,” Stallman said. “We’ve started a lot of new things this year.”
She said the program has added computers to its laptop loan program, and created more student workshop opportunities in areas like budgeting, stress relief, study skills and transferring to a university. At the beginning of each semester, students are able to let staff know what they would like to see from STARS. Stallman said each suggestion is seriously considered.
Students interested in joining can stop by the STARS offices in the South Oasis on RLC’s main campus in Ina, fill out an application, and be interviewed by a staff member. To qualify, one must be either a first-generation college student, have a disability, or be eligible to receive a Pell Grant.
“It’s not difficult at all as long as they are eligible,” Stallman said. “Any student who comes to Rend Lake College and thinks he or she might be eligible should come by and speak with us. We would love to be able to provide services for those students.”
One way students can get started early on the STARS track is by signing up for Upward Bound while in high school. Fifty students in five area high schools are able to participate in Upward Bound, which offers a wide variety of training and incentives for students to build their high school diploma into a college degree. Upward Bound students who seek a degree at RLC automatically have a spot in STARS.
Stallman said, “Studies show that low-income students who have gone through a SSS program are graduating at twice the rate of students from the same background who don’t have Student Support Services. That’s a pretty big figure.”