Grant program at VCU helping low-income and first-generation students earn a college degree


RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — To walk across the stage in a cap and gown and receive a college diploma was something Dorean Seaborn of Suffolk and Andrea Avendano Jurado, the daughter of immigrant parent, never thought would be possible.

However, a federal grant program at Virginia Commonwealth University is helping to make reality.

“I am the first woman in my family to complete a college degree,” says Seaborn a VCU senior.

“Beginning of high school, middle school, I didn’t even think going to college was an option for me,” said Jurado, physical education and exercise science major tells us.

Yet, Jurado will graduate in just 3 years next May.

The two women have been part of VCU’s Trio Student Support Services Program which has been funded a federal grant aimed at helping low income and first-generation students as well as individuals with disabilities.

VCU was just awarded $2.6 million dollars to continue the assistance. A grant in the amount of $261,855 for five years that was initially awarded in 2015 and has now been renewed and a new five-year grant of $261,888 has been awarded. The new grant will aid additional STEM majors like science, technology and mathematics.

In all, 320 VCU students will benefit.

“We provide academic, emotional and social support to our most marginalized populations,” said Chimene Boone, who directs the Trio programs at VCU.

She said the grant funding allows them to provide one-on-one career advising, money management workshops and mentoring.

“We also have access to specialized tutoring and academic coaching,” Boone said.

Daphne Rankin Associate Vice President for Summer Studies and Special Programs at VCU say there’s a real need for these kinds of programs.

“At VCU we know that one-third of our students are first-generation college students.” Rankin said.

She added the programs also can help provide these new college students with a sense of belonging.

“First-generation students have a lot of pressure on them as they come into a University setting,” she said.

Seaborn says that was the case for her.

“It turned into my safe space,” Seaborn said.

Seaborn who is majoring in political science with a concentration in civil rights and a minor in African studies tells us the program also helped get an internship with Congressman Donald McEachin.

Boone said there’s been other success stories. Many of their Trio grant students are working towards a Master’s degree or have entered nursing school. One recent graduate landed a corporate job with Johnson & Johnson.

Once students are accepted at VCU they can apply for the grant. Transfers can also apply online.

Virginia State University was also recently awarded a federal Trio grant. VSU has been awarded a five-year Student Support Services (SSS) grant for $1.3 million. It will help 140 low-income, first-generation college students as well as students with disabilities on the campus of VSU.


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