OMA&D Academic Counseling Services

TRIO Student Support Services

TRIO Pumpkin Party

Join us for our TRIO Pumpkin Party on Friday, 10/29 from 3 – 5 PM at the Intellectual House!  

We will be making hot chocolate bombs, carving pumpkins and decorating sugar skulls! This is a great opportunity to hang out with our TRIO SSS team and other TRIO scholars! Please RSVP for the event before Wednesday, 10/27!  

Event Details  

Date: Friday, October 29th  

Time: 3 PM – 5 PM 

Location: Intellectual House – 4249 Whitman Ct NE, Seattle, WA 98105 

RSVP Link: 

COVID-19 Policy: Masks are required for ALL guests, regardless of vaccination status. 

If you have any questions, please let me know! 

See you there!  

Congratulations Class of 2021!

Check out our TRIO SSS Graduating Class of 2021 on our Instagram @UWTRIOSSS every Monday, Wednesday & Friday for a Senior Highlight!

Our TRIO SSS Team is incredibly proud and honored to celebrate our 2021 Graduates! Check out our TRIO SSS graduates along side their fellow Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity (OMA&D) Class of 2021 here!

TRIO Alumni Highlight: Sarah Keo

Sarah Keo is a TRIO Alumni sharing her story as a first-generation student navigating UW and the impact that TRIO had on her academic career. Check out her story below!

Sarah Keo

When I was a kid, there was nothing that I wanted more than to be normal. Growing up in a predominantly white, middle-class suburb, my idea of “normal” was having the quintessential, all-American nuclear family – a replica of the white picket-fenced American Dream. Unfortunately for me, as a Cambodian-American with refugee parents, that fantasy was far beyond my reach.

Both of my parents escaped the Khmer Rouge, the communist regime responsible for the genocide of over 2 million Cambodians during the late 1970s, and found asylum in North America, where they struggled to make a life for themselves. My parents tried their best to raise us kids, but they suffered an immense amount of pain and trauma that they carried with them through their adult lives, leading them down a spiral of alcoholism and depression. As a child, I was the product of a broken home with no money and little parental guidance. I was horribly awkward in school, felt uncomfortable in my own skin, and was bullied for looking different. Any hope for normalcy that I had was doomed from the start.

Under these living conditions, I quickly learned how to take care of myself and so did my brothers. After my parents divorced, my mom was a single mother working two jobs, so we were responsible for getting ourselves on the school bus every morning and doing our homework in the evenings. Unfortunately, when your first priority is to survive your day-to-day, education becomes a secondary thought. And the awful thing about trauma is that it passes down through generations, so over the years my brothers struggled through their own cycles of alcoholism, mental illness, and childhood trauma. 

According to the Pew Research Center, 59% of Cambodian-Americans have a high school education or less, 24% have some college education, and only 18% have a Bachelor’s degree or higher. If there were ever a real-life case study to back these statistics, it’d be my family: my eldest brother dropped out of high school; the second eldest got his high school diploma; and the third eventually got his associate’s degree. Fortunately, I was removed from my parents’ custody at the age of 10 and was taken in by my aunt. She provided me with a loving home, and for the first time in my life the idea of attending university and obtaining a 4-year degree felt like a real possibility.

As you can imagine, the moment I opened my acceptance letter to the University of Washington was a dream come true. I was the first person in my family to break the cycle and attend university. With my acceptance, I learned I would be a part of the TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) program for first generation and low-income students. At the time, I had no idea what TRIO was, but if it helped me to go to college, I was game for anything.

Entering the university as a freshman, I was in for a rude awakening; I was a small fish lost in a large sea, and I had no idea what I was doing. Although this is a common feeling among incoming freshmen, I lacked the same support system most other students had and needed guidance. Luckily, TRIO requires their students to visit their advisors at least once a quarter, so I was able to get the help I needed. 

The first time I checked in for an advising appointment, I was greeted by the warm, smiling face of my advisor, Ann. The first thing that I noticed about Ann was that she was Vietnamese. I would later learn that Ann’s family also immigrated to America and struggled through their own hardships. When you’ve had mostly white teachers and advisors your entire academic career, there is a level of comfort in having an advisor who not only looks like you, but who also understands the struggles you and your family have endured.

I immediately felt comfortable with Ann, and she became my go-to person for advice. When I needed a work study position, TRIO staff encouraged me to apply for a Student Associate position at the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity (OMA&D), and I was hired shortly after. TRIO staff set me up for future success by helping me with scholarship applications, writing me recommendations, and guiding me as I chose to major in Marketing through the Michael G. Foster School of Business.. 

My TRIO adviser helped me make some of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.. If I weren’t in TRIO, I would’ve never studied abroad in India and Tahiti. Later on as a Senior, when I was faced with the mounting pressures from the business school to go the corporate route, Ann encouraged me to pursue my passion for film instead. My TRIO adviser was the person in my corner who made me believe I could accomplish whatever I set my mind to. Six years later, I am now the Production Coordinator at a reputable film production company whose most recent film, The Social Dilemma, reached 38 million households within the first 28 days of its premiere on Netflix. My secret childhood dream was to tell stories and change the world. I have TRIO to thank for helping me to achieve that dream.

It’s difficult to put into words how much TRIO did for me, but I am who I am today because of that program. Working in the OMA&D office and being a part of the TRIO program, I was provided with more than just financial aid and academic advising. I was given a second family among the Advisors and Student Associates who nurtured me and cherished me in a way that I didn’t even know I needed. It was a community of intelligent and thoughtful leaders from all different backgrounds who taught me the importance of diversity and inclusion. 

For once in my life, I felt comfortable in my own skin. For once in my life, I was embraced by a community that made me feel like I belonged. For once in my life, I understood that the adversity I faced didn’t define me and that being a woman of color and the child of refugees were things to be proud of. Maybe I didn’t get the white picket fence, but I got the family, albeit unconventional, that I had always wanted.

This is all to say that the TRIO program changed my life. When I first joined TRIO, I was skeptical of another authoritative figure telling me what to do. I was a stubborn and independent 18-year-old who held the misguided belief that I had to navigate college on my own. As silly as it may sound, my TRIO adviser was the first person to ever tell me that it’s okay to ask for help. Without Ann’s help, I would’ve never been able to get through college debt-free, nor would I have landed my dream job of working in film. So to the incoming TRIO students out there: please take advantage of this program. Being a part of the TRIO program was one of the best things to ever happen to me, and if you open yourself to this program, your life will be changed, too.

TRIO SSS Celebrates 40 years of success at UW

It was 1980. Our department, then called the Office of Minority Affairs, had just received a new grant award from the U.S. Department of Education. The UW had won a new opportunity for students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, students with disabilities, and students who are the first in their families to pursue 4-year degrees. Three hundred students from this population would now have access to holistic advising, targeted instruction and tutoring, and innovative co-curricular opportunities to help them thrive and grow through the Husky experience and ultimately earn their Bachelor’s degrees. TRIO Student Support Services had arrived at the UW.

Today, 40 years later, the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity is pleased to announce that its TRIO-Student Support Services program has been awarded renewal of two grants, supporting both a TRIO-SSS Regular and a TRIO-SSS STEM program. The U.S. Department of Education awards total $3.86 million over the next five years. $2.56 million will fund services supporting 300 students in the Regular program, and $1.3 million will fund services for 120 students in the STEM-focused program.

Beyond providing holistic advising and instructional support, TRIO-SSS offers program participants a welcoming community where they can find belonging on a campus where they might easily feel like outsiders. For instance, first year program participants can take the TRIO-SSS orientation seminars that help students feel included in a UW community while they are just starting their college journey. In addition, UW TRIO-SSS offers a range of events and resources that are tailored to program participants’ needs, including financial literacy workshops, internship opportunities, and a lab class that teaches bench research skills.

Participants also build social connections and affirm their identities by sharing cultural knowledge at program sponsored events. Past activities have included a class on how to make spring rolls and a hike up to Rattlesnake Ledge.  UW TRIO-SSS programming leads students to participate in an inclusive community where they feel safe and appreciated at the university. Students taking the TRIO-SSS writing seminar for new Huskies, for example, report feeling welcomed into a community where they are accepted and understood.  Expressing this sense of belonging, Zavannah writes that TRIO-SSS offers her the opportunity to be “surrounded by people who make me feel included” and she says, “I feel at ease knowing that I can be myself.”  Her classmate, Evy, adds that with TRIO-SSS, “I don’t feel like I am walking alone. I feel empowered and that I can do anything regardless of race or ethnicity.”

As the new 5-year cycle begins, the TRIO-SSS tradition continues strong at the UW, and like Zavannah, future low-income, first generation students and students with disabilities will be able to say, “I have people around me who will empower me and support me.”