Sunday, February 29, 2004

Celebration honors college aid programs

By Matt Leingang
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Growing up in a low-income family with no college-educated relatives to follow as examples, Tim Meeker did not expect to go to college himself.

"Higher education wasn't part of my personal experience, so it didn't seem like a possibility," said the 22-year-old Meeker, a native of Mt. Orab, a Brown County town with high poverty rates.

Today, though, Meeker is a fourth-year biology student at the University of Cincinnati. He's made it this far thanks to two federal programs that help students overcome financial barriers to higher education.

On Saturday, Meeker was part of a celebration at Cincinnati State Technical & Community College to support what are called the federal Trio Programs. About 230 high school and college students attended, along with state Rep. Tyrone Yates, a former Trio Program worker.

Launched in the mid-1960s, Congress established the Trio Programs - initially there were three - to extend educational opportunities to more Americans. These programs, which today total seven, currently serve about 820,000 young people and adults, including about 5,000 in Greater Cincinnati.

By law, two-thirds of the participants must come from families with incomes under $24,000 where neither parent graduated from college. The programs offer financial aid, counseling and tutoring.

One of the most famous programs is Upward Bound, which offers Saturday morning college-prep classes to high school students.

"It's the only reason that I've got a shot at going to college," said 17-year-old Carmella Nimmo, a senior at Goshen High School who plans to attend UC's Clermont campus next year.

During part of Saturday's festivities, Meeker addressed high school students, offering advice on how to apply to colleges and serving as a role model.

Meeker is a former Upward Bound student himself, and now that he's in college, he is part of a Trio Program called the Ronald McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement program, which prepares students for doctoral studies.

"Opportunity is what America is all about," Meeker said. "As a country, we need to support more programs like this so that people of all backgrounds realize that yes, you can go to college and accomplish dreams."


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