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Students gather for TRIO Day

Telegraph photos by GRACE PECCI U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., on Friday attends National TRIO Day, which took place at the Radisson Hotel, to meet with students, program staff and higher education officials involved with Upward Bound and Talent Search TRIO Programs in New Hampshire and New England.

NASHUA – “You are worthy of all of the things that you strive for exactly as you are, so don’t buy into the myth that only kids who talk or dress or act a certain way are worthy of respect, worthy of an education or worthy of a chance at success. All people deserve to have those things,” Josefine Garcia told a group of nearly 600 students Friday during New England Educational Opportunity Association’s TRIO Day.

TRIO Day celebrates the achievements of the Federal TRIO programs in assisting and serving low-income and/or first-generation college students to progress academically. The event has been recognized since 1986.

High school students from throughout New England made their way to the Radisson Hotel in Nashua to celebrate National TRIO Day. They listened to welcoming remarks from TRIO Day Co-Chairs Randy Schroeder and Josh Gagnon. The students spent a good chunk of their day Thursday touring colleges in the area. When they returned to the Radisson, they had dinner and were able to participate in evening activities.

On Friday, the students began their day with a buffet breakfast and heard speakers read letters written by members of New Hampshire’s congressional delegation.

Garcia, a TRIO alumni and Dominican immigrant living in Nashua, also addressed the students, sharing a guide she had created for the students that consisted of things she wished someone had once told her, in regards to navigating young adulthood.

Garcia shared with the students her story of moving to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic in third grade and being the first in her family to go to college.

“Having a strong-willed immigrant parent in many ways prepared me for adversity, but as the first one to go to college in my family, it was hard for my mom and my siblings to understand my problems or even relate to them,” Garcia said. “This often made me feel like I was facing things alone. Learning how to navigate my own journey and having to forge a new path helped me learn several lessons that continued to serve me.”

Garcia told the students to stay rooted.

“Your friends and family back home may not understand some of the things you may go through, but they do understand you,” Garcia said. “Don’t be ashamed of whatever home looks like for you – poverty, struggle, pain, hardships. Those are not things to be ashamed of. Along with these things, I also grew up with laughter, affection, music… so much love. The challenges and joys have all shaped me in important ways.”

Garcia also reminded students not to make choices that would jeopardize their future.

“Don’t do anything stupid,” Garcia said. “You will notice the glaring unfairness that other people get to take college less seriously than you. Remind yourself that your hard work will pay off eventually, and in the meantime listen to yourself because you know in your gut what decisions will bring you closer to achieving your goals.”

Garcia finished her speech by talking about becoming a speech pathologist and working with elementary school students with special needs.

“I chose to practice in a public school because public schools are for every child, and I believe that giving a kid a choice, a chance, an opportunity not only alters the course of that one person’s life, but everyone whose life they touch,” Garcia said. “Believe that, because that’s what people did for me. I hope you take the talents you possess and adversity that you’ve faced and use them to build a life that fulfills you and I hope you remember to give back what’s been given to you.”

After Garcia’s speech, the students dispersed to attend different college workshops. These included lessons in spending money, research, cracking the SAT, exploring the college essay and finding a college that fits. In addition, admissions representatives from 40 New England colleges had booths set up for students to visit to acquire more information.

U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., was also in attendance Friday morning to meet with students, program staff and higher education officials involved with Upward Bound and Talent Search TRIO Programs in New Hampshire and New England.

Kuster gave encouragement to the students she met. She also spoke with the students about the need to bring down the costs of college.

“I don’t think the government should make money off student loan interest rates,” Kuster said. She added that lower costs of education would benefit the economy.