Record attendance at TRiO Student and Parent Leadership Conference

Author: Gene Stowe

Stephen Ponzillo, director of TRiO programs Ponzillo

The Notre Dame TRiO Programs’ 10th Annual Student and Parent Leadership Conference drew more than 370 people to South Bend’s Century Center, a record attendance boosted by participants from other Midwestern programs. The event took place on Feb. 25, declared National TRiO Day by Congress.

TRiO names a set of federal programs, including Upward Bound, Talent Search and Student Support Services launched in the 1960s, along with programs added later to focus on veterans, adult education, postgraduate education, and math and science. The programs aim to boost education opportunities for low-income people and those who would be the first in their family to attend college.

“It represents an investment in not just the future of your own aspirations and hopes,” keynote speaker Rev. Dr. Hugh Page Jr. told the group. “It represents an investment in the future of our region and the future of our country. Our world has been evolving at such a rapid pace that our skill set as 21st-century global citizens must be broad and must be diverse.”

Stephen Ponzillo, director of TRiO at Notre Dame and master of ceremonies at the event, in a welcome letter to participants in the conference program said, “We’re living in a world of constant change, which seems to accelerate more rapidly by the day. More than ever, it is incumbent upon all of us to open our eyes, pay attention and acquire the knowledge we need to make a positive and lasting difference in the world.”

More than 20 University, community and business leaders, including some TRiO graduates, led workshops at the event, along with six high school students now in Upward Bound and a group of 15 Robotics presenters from the Purdue Calumet TRiO Upward Bound.

Alyssia Coates, director of the Office of Pre-College Programs with Undergraduate Enrollment; LaTonia Ferguson, a TRiO graduate who is a Learning and Organizational Development Consultant in Human Resources at Notre Dame; Scott Jackson, executive director of Shakespeare at Notre Dame; and Bianca Tirado, who works in the Department of Africana Studies and heads the Black Faculty and Staff Association at Notre Dame, were among the workshop leaders.

Workshop topics included budgeting, overcoming obstacles, technology, communication, leadership, family cooperation, how to become a police officer, careers in business, health, and world issues such as hunger, poverty, pollution and disease.

Visitors came from Governor’s State in Illinois, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, Indiana Wesleyan University and the Robinson Community Learning Center.

Notre Dame’s Upward Bound program, started in 1976, became a national prototype and has helped more than 2,000 local students enroll in post-secondary schools after high school graduation. Talent Search, which came to Notre Dame in 1980, serves more than 800 students per year in 15 target high school and middle schools in South Bend.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who welcomed the group, pointed out that his campaign’s volunteer and community outreach coordinator Cordell Martin is an Upward Bound graduate. “Education is the fuel for the engine of social mobility,” Buttigieg said. “The American Dream pretty much depends on you.”