Texas TRIO Association


VC nursing graduate overcame adversity, furthers education for a brighter future

May 05, 2023

Meet Bernanda Williams

Beranda Williams, RN

While taking prerequisites for Victoria College's Associate Degree Nursing Program five years ago, Beranda Williams didn't know how she could stay in school.

"I was scatterbrained and feeling lost," she said. "I was working full time as a single mother and taking four classes at a time, plus a science lab.

"I didn't know if I was going to be able to afford everything. I had just separated from my husband, so I had to find a new place to stay without the income I was used to having. Bills were piling up."

Williams, a first-generation college student, found help in Victoria College's KEY Center, a TRIO Student Support Services Program funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The KEY Center provides an academically enriching and supportive environment for low-income, disabled and first-generation college students.

"They were awesome to me — great, positive mentors," she said. "I was so negative coming in. It was like, 'I can't do it. It's too much for me. I am going to have to quit this.' Everything was a whirlwind at that point.

Williams is grateful for the impact that KEY Center Director Pam Neumann had on her.

"She's a wonderful, beautiful person," she said. "They were all like my therapists. After that, things started happening. I knew that I was on the right track, and I wasn't going to quit."

With the help of the KEY Center, Williams turned things around and completed her associate degree in May 2021. Two years later, she is now graduating with a Bachelor of Science in nursing from The University of Texas at Arlington.

She now works as a case manager at PAM Rehabilitation Hospital and as a traveling nurse for Regency Nursing Home in Victoria.

Being certified as a registered nurse (RN) opened the door to higher wages, but Williams initially got her foot in the door in 2012 after graduating from VC's Vocational Nursing Program and beginning to work as a licensed vocational nurse (LVN).

"Before I got married, I ran into a friend at a nursing home who told me that I should consider going with LVN certification because I am good with the older, geriatric group," she said. "I needed something quick, and you can get your Vocational Nursing Certificate in a year.

"I wanted to go into business, but I couldn't afford to get an associate or bachelor's degree at that time. I chose the Vocational Nursing Program. After that, I flourished."

After earning her bachelor’s degree, Williams plans to spend lots of quality time with her daughter, Malaya Ervin (8), before going back to college, but she is happy to have battled through adversity to come away with a solid education and a brighter future.

"My daughter says, 'Mom, just go do your homework,'" she said. "She's dealt with me through this for the last five years. I want to give back to her for all of the time I've spent in school. I owe her that."

However, that doesn't mean that Williams is necessarily done with her higher education journey.

"I am considering going back to school for a master's degree," she said. "I am undecided if I want to do healthcare administration or education. The whole goal is to get in with a job that will pay for it.

"I need to become a certified case manager. I want to add on as much as I can, like medical billing and coding so I can have endless opportunities."

Williams, who recently spoke at VC about her experiences with the KEY Center as a student, remains grateful for the staff's help in turning everything around for her.

"The women at the KEY Center supplied me with the assistance I needed to get through," she said. "Any time I came in and cried about money, they referred me to the Victoria College Foundation.

"They did anything they could do to help me so I wouldn't quit. They were positive mentors and people to get me to stay in school and give me every resource I could get. I appreciate having somebody who fought for me.

Source: https://www.victoriacollege.edu/news/2023/05/05/vc-nursing-graduate-overcame-adversity-furthers-education-for-a-brighter-future

U.S. Department of Education Awards more than $4.6 Million to TCC over the Next Five Years to Help Low Income, Potential First-Generation College Students Access Higher Education


TRIO Upward Bound will provide five years of funding to help 180 local students per year find their paths to college.

The U.S. Department of Education announced that Tarrant County College (TCC) will receive federal Upward Bound grant funding of more than $4.6 million over the next five years to help more low-income students from three Tarrant County high schools (O.D. Wyatt, South Hills, and Everman) who would be the first members of their families to earn degrees to prepare for and enroll in college. TCC South has hosted the Upward Bound Program continuously since 2003, serving more than 2,800 local high school students.

One of the federal TRIO Programs, Upward Bound is an intensive intervention program that prepares students for higher education through various enrichment courses. At least two-thirds of the students in each local Upward Bound program are from low-income economic backgrounds and families in which neither parent has a bachelor’s degree.

Many Upward Bound alumni have gone on to great success, among them Academy Award-winning actress Viola Davis, Correspondent for ABC News John QuiƱones and Hall of Fame NBA player Patrick Ewing.

“I am ecstatic that TCCD will continue to impact the lives of young adults through the TRIO Upward Bound Programs – providing them with valuable services and helping them acquire the skills and motivation necessary to move into postsecondary education,” stated Trichele Davenport, TRIO Upward Bound director at TCC South.

Campus-based Upward Bound programs provide students instruction in literature, composition, mathematics, science and foreign language during the school year and the summer. Upward Bound also provides intensive mentoring and support for students as they prepare for college entrance exams and tackle admission applications, financial aid and scholarship forms.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 86% of Upward Bound participants enroll in postsecondary institutions immediately following high school graduation. In FY21, more than 70,000 students enrolled in 966 Upward Bound TRIO projects in the United States.

In 1964, the Economic Opportunity Act established Upward Bound as a pilot program in response to the War on Poverty. It was the first of seven federal “TRIO” programs to later be authorized by the Higher Education Act to help college students succeed in higher education. It recognizes that students whose parents do not have a college degree have more difficulties navigating the complexity of decisions that college requires for success, bolsters students from low-income families who have not had the academic opportunities that their college peers have had and helps remove obstacles preventing students from thriving academically.

“The TRIO Upward Bound Program has thrived at TCC South for nearly 20 years. Continued funding in support of the program will ensure that more high school students receive the support necessary to succeed in postsecondary education and beyond,” stated TCC Chancellor Elva LeBlanc.

“As systemic inequality and financial hardship discourage students from succeeding in college, TRIO programs like Upward Bound take on new importance because they continue to help students who are low-income and first-generation to earn college degrees,” said Maureen Hoyler, president of the non-profit Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) in Washington, D.C. COE is dedicated to furthering the expansion of college opportunities for low-income, first-generation students, and students with disabilities nationwide.

As of 2021, more than 3,000 TRIO projects serve approximately 855,000 participants yearly. TRIO projects are in every state and territory in the nation.

Source: Tarrant County College News, 2/1/2023 by Kendra Price


Edwin C. Serrano: Physical therapist

helps others conquer pain

NOVEMBER 14, 2022

Edwin is CEO and owner of Positive Action Rehab & Performance.

Edwin began with the Upward Bound Math-Science Center at The University of Texas at Arlington (UT-Arlington) as a participant in 2005 and completed the TRIO pre-college program’s Bridge program in 2007 at UT-Arlington. Edwin has always diligently pursued a college education since joining the program. 

Through this motivation, he graduated from Our Lady of the Lake University with a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology in 2012 and received a doctoral degree in physical therapy from the University of Incarnate Word in 2015.

Edwin, who started as a tenth-grade high school student at Presidio High School in a small rural community near the Texas-Mexican border in West Texas, is a first-generation college student who initially desired to be an architect and give back to his community. 

As a former Upward Bound Math-Science participant, Edwin always had the desire and fortitude to reach his academic goals, showing respect and courtesy to all staff and peers. Despite any challenges, he always maintained a sense of responsibility, leadership, and initiative in his work. 

While being a program participant, Edwin developed himself, confidence, and a work ethic to promote his learning. He led by example, self-taught self-esteem skills and other essential know-how to succeed in college and life. Cunningly, he has used his knowledge and abilities to establish his own business providing needed treatment for others with his wife, also an alumnus of the program.

Source: COE's Faces of TRIO




Your  News & Updates


Welcome by our TASSSP President

Hello Texas TRIO,

Greetings from your 2017-2018 TASSSP President! This year we are off to a great start! Your TASSSP Board and I would like to thank all of you for all the demanding work you do each day for our students. Congratulations to our Immediate Past President Priselda Perez and her Conference Chair Brad Gifford and his committee on a job well done! Our 44th Annual Conference in Tyler was one of the most successful conferences TASSSP has had. In addition, your Texas TRIO representatives participated in one of the highest attended COE Annual Policy Seminars ever. There were over 740 TRIO Professionals and Alumni in D.C. lobbying for our students and programs. Texas had over 30 TRIO Professionals and Alumni on "The Hill" Fired Up and Ready to Go!Thirty-two TRIO Professionals and Alumni attended 2017 Policy. Our goal for 2018 is to have at least 50 in attendance!

On April 28, we will be visiting our Texas State Capitol for a day with over 200 TRIO staff and students in attendance.  We will be touring the Capitol and learning about the legislative process while exposing state representatives to TRIO programs and students.

The first week in May your TASSSP Board will be meeting to discuss our Strategic Plan and Goals for 2017-18.  Some of the goals that we will be discussing are ways to:

  • increase our membership to 500 paid members! (Currently we have around 250 active members);
  • support our alliances to help increase attendance, participation, and networking;
  • increase our advocacy for TRIO programs at the local, state, and national levels;                 
  • build an TRIO Alumni Association for graduate and former TRIO students to network and advocate for TRIO programs.

If you have any ideas or suggestions on how we can accomplish our goals, please email me and I will share them with our board.


Remember the work that you do daily is making a tremendous impact on the lives of many students.


Tony R. Hall                                                                                                           TASSSP President

Texas TRIO Programs Work!!!

TASSSP Policy Team in Action!
 The Policy Team of T.A.S.S.S.P.

TASSSP, we want to recognize the members of the 2017 TASSSP Policy Team. We are sincerely grateful for their advocacy and leadership. The alumni were truly amazing! Each of their stories demonstrated that TRIO works in Texas. All of them truly make the difference in DC as in the communities. Thank you all for a successful policy seminar! Our fight has just begun! TRIO WORKS!

Gilbert Morales               Dafney Bell

Martin Lopez                   Desiree Padron

Jeff Kahlden                    Jennifer Sutton

Tony Hall                         Keelah Wilson

Al Bacon                         Kristal McGhee

Nathan Edwards             Martika Jacobs

Regan Arevalos              Patricia Hernandez

Brad Gifford                    Priselda Perez

Fidel Zapata                   Tiffany Lewis

Guy Melton                     Vonice Champ 
Michele Sofield               Dawana Lewis

Virginia Day                    James Spigner
Corina Santos                 Kyle Price

Valerie Boyer

Congressman Mike Simpson: TRIO Champion of Idaho 

Congressman Mike Simpson (R) of the 2nd District-Idaho was the keynote speaker during the Tuesday morning plenary at Policy Seminar. The congressman demonstrated how important TRIO is to him by skipping out on the Republican House Representative meeting scheduled with President Trump. This was met with roaring applause by the audience. Congressman Simpson stated he does not support the skinny budget of President Trump. He recognizes thousands of low income and first generation students would be adversely impacted by these cuts. Congressman Simpson verbally pledged to fight the cuts. It was assuring to know TRIO has the support of both sides of the aisle.

San Antonio Alliance proves TRIO WORKS!

TRIO professionals from UT San Antonio, Trinity University and Communities in Schools of San Antonio as well as a current McNair Student from UTSA were able to speak with the offices of Congressmen Lloyd Doggett (D - District 35), Will Hurd (R-District 23), Henry Cuellar (D- District 28), Vicente Gonzalez (D - District 15), Joaquin Castro (D District 20) and Lamar Smith (R - District 21). Overall it was a great experience with every congress member except Lamar Smith saying that they supported TRIO and believed that we are doing great things with low-income, first generation students. Several staff members also expressed interest in their representatives joining the TRIO caucus, however none gave definitive answers. We were fortunate enough to meet with Rep. Castro in person, and he was incredibly supportive of TRIO and expressed his personal interest in joining the caucus as well as making time to come and visit our programs in person. We definitely left with an overwhelmingly hopeful feeling that our state representatives are fully behind TRIO and everything we do for our students! 

T.A.S.S.S.P. seeks new TRIO champion in Congressman Ted Poe

Current T.A.S.S.S.P. President-Elect Al Bacon had the opportunity to visit with Representative Ted Poe (R-District 2). Mr. Poe expressed his support for education and strongly believes it is the great equalizer. The Congressman recognize President Trump's skinny budget would adversely impact the students who depend on TRIO programs. He firmly believes the proposed budget will not stand. We thank Mr. Representative Poe for taking time of his schedule to visit with our team and we hope to add him to our list of TRIO championships.

TRIO Champion Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee pledges support for funding!

The TASSSP Policy team of Houston had the opportunity to meet with Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee-(D-18th District). She remains one of the steadfast supporters of TRIO programs. She vocalized her disappointment in the proposed budget by President Trump. She firmly believes programs such as TRIO are vital for student success. We thank Representative Jackson Lee for her leadership and support of TRIO. 

2 photo(s) Updated on: 21 Jun 2017
  • Elizabeth Morales (Left), Wynette Keller (Right)
  • Fidel Zapata (Left), Tim Eshak (Center), Jennifer Sutton (Right)

Texas TRIO Association (TX-TRIO)  Address:  1225 W. Mitchell St. UTA,  Box 19356, Arlington, TX 76019  Phone: 817.272.2633

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software