By Alex Cameron, NEWS 9
OKLAHOMA CITY -- President Obama laid out a goal to give Americans the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. It's a bold goal, and, like most of the goals President Obama laid out in his speech Tuesday night, it won't be easy to achieve.
The good news is the foundation for getting more of our kids into and through college was already on display at the state Capitol Wednesday.
TRIO is comprised of a half dozen programs that help identify kids with the desire to go to college, but may be lacking the means, and then helps get them there. The foundation was originally based off of three programs which is how it became names TRIO.
"We're proud of you for having the courage to have a dream, and then to reach out and try to accomplish that dream," Lt. Governor Jari Askins said.
State officials saw Wednesday there's no shortage of students in Oklahoma whose dream is to go to college. So many students made the trip to the Capitol that a closed circuit feed was needed so everyone could view Wednesday's special TRIO Day program in the House Chamber.
"I'm one of these legislators that believe that higher education should be a right for every child in Oklahoma that wants to pursue it," State Senator Kenneth Corn said.
State Senator Corn is a TRIO alumnus and understands its importance.
"The whole focus of the TRIO program is to ensure that first-generation students and low-income students have a way to get to college," Sen. Corn said.
Among the TRIO programs that help do ensure that dream are Educational Talent Search, Student Support Services, and Upward Bound. Alva 10th grader Gary Carter said he's determined to be the first in his family to go to college.
"The way the economy is, you can't really get a job without some kind of degree or other schooling besides high school," Upward Bound participant Gary Carter said.
Jennifer Tindal, an 11th grader at Lawton Ike High School, joined TRIO, in part, because her siblings did it.
"It's also a great program to help you get prepared for college, and it's really intense. But overall, it's just one of the best things that's happened to me," Tindal said.
Program leaders said sadly, there are many more students who are eligible, but there's not enough money to accommodate them all.
"These are highly successful programs. Sometimes we just need more visibility so that more people know about us, so that those funding opportunities are there," TRIO Day coordinator Scott Cady said.
All the TRIO programs are federally funded, but supporters said raising awareness among state lawmakers, especially in light of the President's comments Tuesday night, can only help keep the pressure on Congress to keep the funding in place.
The first TRIO programs were created under the Johnson administration in the mid-60's. Currently, more than 2,500 Oklahoma students participate in TRIO.