Introducing TRIO (SSS) KEYS

Why does the KEYS Program have so many initials? Great question!

First "TRIO" is not an acronym. It represents the original three programs that were created as part of the Higher Education Act of 1965 to address the War on Poverty in the United States. "SSS" is the abbreviation for one of the original three programs -- Student Support Services. That's us!

The TRIO SSS program has been funded at Arizona Western College for more than 20 years. Over time, we decided to rebrand ourselves to help students, staff and faculty understand how unique our program is.

"KEYS" stands for Keep Envisioning Your Success -- which is something we want all AWC students to embrace. Even in the midst of life and academic challenges, we encourage our participants to seek out help, make an appointment with one of our staff members, or get support from our Tutors, Academic Skills Coaches, or Peer Mentors.

All-in-all, we are here to help! The KEYS Program will be funded by $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Education from 2015 to 2020.

Our staff
Michelle Thomas has been the project director for the TRIO KEYS Program since January 2007. Besides overseeing the entire operation of the grant, she also meets with students for advising appointments. She is currently pursuing her doctorate in Education and Curriculum through the University of Phoenix and plans to complete her dissertation by 2016.

Eva Aviles is the Academic Success coordinator for second-year students (30-plus credits). Her primary responsibilities are to assist and support continuing students who plan to graduate and transfer from AWC. She assists with the applications for graduation and for university and vocational programs, she coordinates our university-related activities, she helps to plan and coordinate our graduate banquets and she oversees our tutoring program.

In addition to her multi-faceted responsibilities, Aviles is also serving as the Student Leadership Conference (SLC) chair for our state organization that supports TRIO programs and personnel. In April 2016, there will be more than 150 students at AWC for the annual AZ WESTOP SLC.

Laura Shepherd is the Academic Success coordinator for first-year students (30 credits or less). Laura's primary responsibilities are to oversee the Guided Pathways to Success program -- a service that provides comprehensive support to the program's first-year students. Services include cohort classes with extended support from faculty and our Academic Skills Coaches, weekly study sessions for math and English, a Peer Mentor Program and community service-learning opportunities.

Shepherd also coordinates many of the extracurricular activities as well as personal development workshops, and she advises Club SOTE, a leadership club for program participants to develop skills in teamwork, event management and community service.

Angelica Gebhardt is the project assistant for the TRIO KEYS Program. Angie's primary responsibilities are to manage the front office, including student staff, payroll and student files, compiling data for annual reports, travel requests, and managing appointment calendars. She also serves as the President for the Arizona Chapter of WESTOP, the state organization that represents TRIO programs. She represents Arizona at the regional and national level on behalf of TRIO programs to advocate for future funding and support from state politicians.

Kenia Rodriguez is the TRIO KEYS Outreach coordinator, whose many responsibilities include identifying new students by offering classroom presentations, staffing information tables, and assisting with the Discover AWC sessions for new students. She is also the Co-Advisor for Club SOTE, and she reaches out to previous and continuing program participants who may need to see one of our advisors for assistance and support.

In addition to working part-time for the program, Rodriguez is also a full-time student at NAU-Yuma and will be graduating with her bachelor's degree in December.

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