NO STUDENT LEFT BEHIND - TRiO program assists low income and first generation WCJC students

October 29, 2018
NO STUDENT LEFT BEHIND - TRiO program assists low income and first generation WCJC students

Wharton County Junior College's TRiO SSS program assists low income and first generation students. Pictured, from left, are Shayna Barker, TRiO Advisor and Coaching Specialist; Marybelle Perez, WCJC's Director of Grant Writing; Elizabeth Argote, TRiO Grant Clerk; and Jessica Falcon, TRiO Program Director.

WHARTON, TEXAS – Ensuring low income and first generation college students have the resources they need to be successful is the purpose behind Wharton County Junior College’s TRiO Student Support Services program.

Funded by a U.S. Department of Education grant, the TRiO designation refers to three federal initiatives – Upward Bound, Talent Search and Student Support Services – aimed at benefitting low income or first-generation students. WCJC received its first TRiO SSS grant in September of 2015. Funding lasts for a five-year period, after which time the college may re-apply for an additional grant. 

TRiO staff currently provides services to 150 students in the TRiO Student Support Services Center located on the first floor of the J.M. Hodges Library on the Wharton campus. Students who qualify for the program must be either first-generation college students or economically disadvantaged, or have a documented learning, physical or emotional disability. Over the past three years, 55 TRiO students have graduated from WCJC and another 28 have transferred on to a four-year university.

“Our goal is to make sure that our low-income and first-generation students do not get left behind,” said TRiO SSS Project Director Jessica Falcon. “We are here to support them and ensure that they graduate with a WCJC degree, enter the workforce or transfer to a university.”

Falcon oversees the program with the assistance of TRiO Advisor and Coaching Specialist Shayna Barker and TRiO Grant Clerk Elizabeth Argote. Additional assistance is provided by part-time academic support leaders. In addition to academic advising and financial aid support, program staff offers a wide-range of personal and social support services including peer mentoring, social and cultural events, goal setting sessions, strength-based development exercises and career support aimed at helping students obtain a job or continue on in their educational pursuits.

“We even purchased ties for some of our students to wear to interviews because we realized they didn’t own one,” Falcon said.

Assistance is provided to the students for the duration of their time at WCJC, though Falcon and her staff often continue to support graduates who need help finding a job or preparing for an interview. The point is to help students develop the skills and attributes needed for future success either in the classroom or in a career.

“There is no greater feeling than helping one of your students fill out their application for graduation two years after you helped them complete their application for WCJC,” Falcon said. “We believe in them and help them believe in their own capabilities.”

Students interested in the program may pick up an application at the TRiO Center or access the application online at Those with questions may contact Falcon at 979-532-6478 or or Barker at 979-532-6477 or at