By Steve Nakata, Administrative Services

Leo-Castellano-80WASHINGTON – A Washington State University student will have the ear of about 50 policy makers when he speaks at a U.S. Capitol briefing Tuesday on behalf of a national TRIO program called Student Support Services.

Master’s of business administration student Leonel Castellano relied heavily upon WSU’s Student Support Services to succeed as a first-generation undergraduate.

“I had no idea how to study effectively, no idea how to do a FASFA (financial aid form) correctly and no idea what I was getting myself into,” Castellano said. “But there was a silver lining: TRIO Student Support Services provided me with the tools to develop, achieve and graduate.”

“His story of transitioning from a first-time college-goer to now MBA candidate, thanks to the academic and social support he received, will be an invaluable contribution to the event,” said Kimberly Jones, who is with the nationwide, nonprofit Council of Opportunity in Education, the briefing’s sponsor.

Informing policy makers

Though Student Support Services has been in existence nationally since 1968, it remains one of the lesser-known TRIO programs, she said. That is why periodic briefings involving policy makers are so important.

In his speech, Castellano plans to share about struggling during his first year of college, leaving WSU due to academic deficiencies, sitting out a year, returning with the understanding that he would need guidance to succeed, and finding that guidance through Student Support Services.

This will be Castellano’s first trip to the East Coast.

“It’s so exciting that Leo is going to represent the WSU TRIO Student Support Services program, but also the WSU community and the Northwest,” said Kristine Attao, director of WSU’s Student Support Services. “Leo’s story is a prime example of why TRIO works.”

First-generation population growing

In addition to Student Support Services, TRIO includes Upward Bound and the Ronald E. McNair Achievement Program, all programs offered by WSU.

According to figures provided by WSU Institutional Research, the number of first-generation students (students whose parents did not go to college) have been increasing significantly at the university. First-generation students made up 41 percent of the freshman class this fall.

Attao and her fellow WSU TRIO program directors said the services they provide are essential to meeting the needs of WSU’s growing first-generation student population.