Inspiring Youth: Revelations From TRIO and GEAR UP Success Stories

Trio Educational Opportunity Centers Logo

I recently attended the MAEOPP (Mid-America Association of Educational Opportunity Programs Personnel) conference at the Abby in Lake Geneva.  My company joined this organization earlier this year and this was my first time attending one of their events.

MAEOPP supports TRIO and GEAR UP, federally funded programs that provide educational support to low income and disadvantaged students.  These support services both help students realize their dreams of going to college and then provide support for them while on campus.  TRIO and GEAR UP have a number of branches, including Student Support Services, Educational Talent Search, McNair Graduate Programs and Upward Bound.

The Lake Geneva conference was full of wonderful testimonials detailing how the programs really do make a difference in people’s lives.  Here is a quick snapshot of some of these stories.

•   The first night of the conference, I randomly sat down to dinner with Anthony Thomas, a former NFL Football player and a graduate of TRIO.  He told me how one of his teachers in high school willed him into Upward Bound and as a result, he went from life destined on the streets to becoming a college graduate (and then a player in the NFL).  He now works for a Briar Cliff College, helping at risk high school students get involved with TRIO programming.  Mr. Thomas told me TRIO saved his life.

•   U.S. Representative Gwendolyn Moore from Wisconsin spoke about how the people in TRIO pulled her into college when she was a pregnant teenager.  She testified that without TRIO, she would have likely slipped into a life of poverty and welfare.

•   A keynote address during one of the breakfasts was by an adult student who gave an emotional and powerful testimonial to the power of TRIO programming.  She talked about her learning deficiencies and how deeply appreciative she is to have the help of Student Support Services.  Not only is she getting an education, she explained that she is really excited to become a meaningful member of society as a teacher.

•    During a recognition lunch, a female graduate of the TRIO program discussed her story of growing up homeless.  Her introduction to the Education Talent Search inspired her to work hard in school and the path which led her to a college education. She knows because of TRIO, not only her, but her kids are successful contributors to society today.

All of these speeches and chance meetings talked about raising the bar, giving people an opportunity and support to better their situations.  That got me thinking about my family story for the first time in a different light.

My father grew up in a middle class family in Indiana. My dad did not do well in high school; he really struggled and finished second to bottom in his class.  A year later he realized that in order to achieve his personal goals, he would need to get a college degree.

Dad applied and was admitted into Elgin Community College (ECC) on a probationary period.  Dean Gil Renner put my father in touch with Student Support Services. They set him up with a full schedule of business related classes (classes which he was confident he could excel in) and assisted him in building a reputable academic portfolio. He had to make his marks each semester or he was out of school. My father was determined, and with the help of Student Support Services, he not only graduated from ECC, but was accepted at Eastern Illinois University (EIU) where he completed his undergraduate degree in Marketing.

Upon graduation from EIU, my dad moved into an extremely successful career in computer sales.  With the help of Student Support Services, my father was able to raise the bar.  Without their support and giving him the opportunity, he would likely never have achieved his goals. This success was passed on to his family with all three of us kids furthering our education in college.

Due to the American Dream adage which tells society that through hard work and a little bit of elbow grease, everyone can achieve success on their own, many people believe that asking for help is a sign of failure. I do not fully buy this.  While I do recognize that personal hard work is a necessary component, not all backgrounds and situations are the same.  I believe some people need additional support and opportunities and furthermore, that investment is well worth the costs.  My family story and the ones shared at MAEOPP are just a few of many examples.

If you have a similar story or feel that Student Support Services is a necessary component to giving disadvantaged students a chance to succeed, tell your congressional representatives.  The funding continues to be at risk for these programs.

To learn more about the mission of the programs, go to


Michael Wolaver, Founder

College-Friendly Kitchen Gadgets

Kitchen Inspired Promo Products

We have said it before, and we will say it again — college students LOVE free stuff!  Speaking from personal experience (Hi, I’m Jeanna Patterson, the marketing intern here at Magellan Collegiate Promotions and UW-Milwaukee senior), as a college student, the promotional products I love to receive are practical items such as water bottles, kitchen gadets, or desk items.

Two years ago I received a pizza cutter from my university’s neighborhood housing office.  I remember thinking what a score this little pizza cutter was because as luck would have it, I actually needed one (but I was too cheap to go out and buy one)!  Becuase it is such a handy little item, my neighborhood housing pizza cutter has stayed with me through two moves and countless pizzas.

Just like my little pizza cutter, kitchen gadgets in general are perfect promotional products because they are functional and useful items that people will use regularly.  Your college, university, department, or organizational logo will be seen on a daily basis while college students use and reuse them time after time.

Two popular and relatively inexpensive kitchen gadgets on the market today are pizza cutters and flexible cutting boards.

The World’s Best Pizza Cutter

Land Bank Sample Pizza CutterMade from FDA approved plastic, this pizza cutter has a removeable blade that is dishwasher safe (but is also easy to hand wash for all of those college kids without a dishwasher).  The large imprint area (3 7/8″ x 2 3/16″) on the oval handle can easily sport a school logo along with other important contact information and is availale in seven different colors (black, pink, white, translucent blue, translucent green, translucent purple, and translucent red).  This pizza cutter is durable, handy, and perfect for all of the pizza-loving college students out there!



Magic Slice Cutting Board


Magic Slice Cutting BoardThe Magic Slice cutting board is another great kitchen promotional product!  It is easy to store and easy to clean and is also made with antibacterial construction with Tricloban protection, which reduces bacterial build up.  The board itself is available in the party size of 7.5″ x 11″ which is perfect for large logos and other information.

Although there are cheaper promotional cutting boards on the market right now, we prefer Magic slice for two key reasons: 1) the 4-color process printing allows you to customize and match your board with your school’s colors; and 2) compared to similar products, the nonstick material on the bottom of the board holds Magic Slice in place and deters the corners from peeling upwards after multiple uses.

Along with college students, Magic Slice is a great promotional product for Alumni and other collegiate guests.  Becuase they are both easy to clean and very durable, these cutting boards are perfect for tailgating or party decorations at sporting events!

For more information about Magic Slice, click here.