TRIO Achievers » Current Recipients
Principal Attorney, Alcidonis Law Office LLC
Student Support Services, Plattsburgh State University of New York
I could not have achieved my dream of becoming a lawyer without the mentorship and assistance of the Student Support Services Program at Plattsburgh State University. Early on in my life, because of the challenges growing up in a third world country with a visual impairment, I was denied the opportunity to dream big, and my ambition to become a lawyer was as a result both fanciful and imaginary. I remember trying to confide this aspiration to my dad who, without any reservations, responded to me “who do you know in the family has done this thing?” The crushing realization at the time was that my dad was right; we knew of no one in Haiti who was both visually impaired and a lawyer. I remember mumbling to myself in response to my dad’s reaction, “I guess I won’t be a lawyer then.” Though I was not permitted to imagine big things, I was not ready to allow my dream to go dormant. I kept my dream alive by carrying a briefcase to elementary school because it made me look like a lawyer among my peers. I was only nine years old.
When I immigrated to the United States in 1998, I grabbed the opportunity and became the first one in my family to ever attend college, and subsequently law school. I was the first one in my family to have to make that decision. I first decided against it because I was convinced that I would not succeed. My reasoning though illogical at the time, was convincing. I told myself that I would not be able to make it in college because I have a visual impairment, I would not get the type of support that my friends were receiving from their older siblings, and my parents would not be able to assist me when I would need help with my work. With the encouragement of two of my high school teachers, I decided to give it a go.
Prior to attending college, I committed not to allow any challenges to stand in the way of my success, and to do everything in my power to fulfill my childhood dream to become a lawyer. Because of the assistance from the extraordinary folks at SSS, I was free to pave my own path to success. I was selected twice in a row to compete on the law school’s trial team in national trial advocacy competitions, as a criminal defense student attorney representing indigent individuals in Rhode Island Municipal court, and a recipient of the prestigious Justice Thurgood Marshall award for academic excellence.
Today I am no longer the boy who was not permitted to dream big, but a successful attorney with a doctorate degree, two law licenses, and the proud owner of my own law firm. My achievement is a testament of both hard work in the face of unwavering challenges, and the tremendous investment of time and commitment by an SSS staff that was not willing to settle for less than my success.
Professor of Law and Director of the Inter-American Program, McGeorge School of Law
Upward Bound, Arizona State University
I participated in Upward Bound at Arizona State University while still in high school. This experience for me was transformative. I was fortunate to have the gift of intelligence, a good work-ethic, and a good family. I was already a very good student, but UB untapped my potential because it dared me to dream beyond my wildest imagination. I am convinced that if it wasn’t for UB, I might not have achieved as much as I have.
My career has been as surprising as it has been fulfilling. I did not grow up imagining Harvard Law School. Having successfully completed my studies there is a source of pride, but more than anything I am most proud of my career as a committed educator who seeks to untap the same potential and commitment for social change that I learned in UB. As a lawyer, I practiced human rights law and litigated emblematic cases involving crimes against humanity in international tribunals. I quickly transferred the same source of passion and determination onto my students when I became a law professor in 2000, three years after graduating from law school. I have dedicated my career to writing about victims’ rights and the rights of immigrants. I have also been an academic social activist who has worked on several domestic and international social justice projects, including, projects involving the wartime cases in Guatemala, my father’s birth country. But I am most proud of the many students whose lives I have touched and whose careers have been shaped through my commitment to teaching law in the context of social struggles and connected to social movements and peoples. As I walk this journey, I am mindful and grateful for the legacy that UB left me by showing me as well how education could transform people and untap their potential.
This award is important to me because I believe wholeheartedly in the TRIO Programs. I hope to use the award as an opportunity to advocate for the significant and substantial difference that programs like UB makes in the lives of our youth.
Mayor of Jacksonville, Florida
Student Support Services, Jacksonville University
As a student entering Jacksonville University, I was the first person in my family to attend college. I was one of five children raised by a single mom who worked two jobs. Even though my mom was busy, she and my grandmother always instilled in us the important of working hard, being accountable, and putting God first in all that we do.
While attending the university, I worked full time. During this period of time, I had major challenges academically and financially, given my school and workload. The SSS director at the time stepped in and provided me with the support necessary to improve my skills academically so that I could succeed. But, not only was I given the support academically, I was also nurtured and given counseling so that I knew that I could succeed. The program guided me with a holistic approach. Self-esteem is vital when you are trying to succeed financially as well as academically.
The assistance provided to me was not based on me being well connected, wealthy, or prominent. My SSS director had a sincere desire to assist students, me in particular. She saw that I was willing to work hard and had the potential to succeed. This made all the difference for me. Student Support Services is so vital for students who are first-generation college students. I firmly believe that students need an advocate in their life to represent them and provide tutoring, counseling, and encouragement so that they can reach their God-given potential.
The Student Support Services program at Jacksonville University was an invaluable resource for me. It created hope and opportunity and it empowered me intellectually so that I could compete academically and thrive economically. I thank God for giving me the opportunity to be part of Student Support Services; it truly made a difference in my life.
Judge, United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana
Upward Bound, University of Southwest Louisiana
On October 3, 2011, the United States Senate unanimously confirmed my nomination by President Obama to a lifetime appointment as a United States District Court Judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana. I became the first African American woman to be appointed to the federal district courts in Louisiana. Although in the Court’s 200-year history, my elevation to the bench from the bar is historical in many respects, it is also remarkable considering my father only completed the third grade and my mother the tenth. I attribute my success to the academic foundation, study skills, and discipline I learned as an Upward Bound student at the University of Southwest Louisiana (now the University of Louisiana-Lafayette).
As an Upward Bound participant, the study skills courses helped me organize my thoughts, time, and assignments. Living on campus took me away from the daily problems living in poverty placed on me so that I could give my complete attention to my studies. I was able to connect with other kids my age who came from similar backgrounds and who were headed toward similar goals. Also, the administrators and counselors were excellent role models. Finally, the program provided a stipend so that I did not have to juggle school and work to sustain my participation in the program. I credit the Upward Bound program with providing me with a solid foundation upon which to begin my college career and a vital stepping stone to my achievements in law school and as an attorney, law professor, mediator, and public officer.
Clearly I have realized many personal and professional successes in my lifetime. However, had I not participated in the Upward Bound program, I do not believe I would have had the courage or support necessary to dream big and to succeed in those dreams.
Chief Executive Officer, J. S. Bullock & Associates — The Brokerage for Dreams and Founder, Multiracial Policy Institute (MPI)
Upward Bound, University of Maryland-Baltimore County
How is it that a young woman of multiple diversities has achieved and accomplished what society would normally consider unattainable as a first-generation individual who grew up with minimal means? The answer is quite simple. Programs like Upward Bound nurtured the potential that I, along with my peers, exhibited all along. Today, as I look back, it is undoubtedly among the early defining experiences in my academic career that set the stage for the woman I am today — from student to Ph.D., from leader to activist, from philanthropist to business owner, and much more. We were taught not to ever limit ourselves, to always strive for excellence, to be proud of where we came from while graciously ignoring the naysayers, and to leave this earth a better place than when we all first entered it. Despite the often unwarranted impediments placed upon me growing up, TRIO helped equip me to overcome society’s temporary barriers and create my permanent realities.
Since my participation in the TRIO program, I have not only proudly carried the torch of achievement instilled by the program so many years ago, but I have always remained committed to the aims of TRIO through my continued social responsibility, teaching with purpose, and embodiment of TRIO goals in all that I do. For anyone who has ever judged such programs for supposedly giving “undeserved opportunities” to students who “would not amount to anything” simply because of our skin colors, our genders, and/or our class backgrounds, I am here as a testament that not only did we work hard, if not harder, to show how diversity and inclusion is a necessity rather than an afterthought in higher education, but many of us may have far exceeded what the program had originally imagined.
If there is anything else that participating in TRIO has taught me it was to stand proud and confident, to always follow my passions, to never limit my potential, and to always give back. It is my hope that I have made the program proud over the years, as much as I am proud to have been given the opportunity to participate in all things TRIO.
|Stephen D. Perry
Principal and Founder, Capitol Preparatory Magnet School; Commentator, CNN; Writer and Columnist, Essence Magazine; and Author
Upward Bound, Wesleyan University
Ever since my early days in Upward Bound, I have been passionate about the program and tried to conduct my life’s work based on the many lessons and principles learned during my tenure with the program. After graduating from high school, I was determined to make my mark in college and show that I was serious about my education — even going so far as wearing a shirt and tie each day to class.
I was so impacted by my experience in Upward Bound that I eagerly accepted the opportunity to serve as the first director of Capitol Community College’s ConnCAP — a state version of Upward Bound — program in Hartford, CT. During my tenure there, I saw my students perform impressively during the school year and then fail when they returned to school in the fall. This was the birth of my concept of the need for year-round schools. After completing my doctorate degree, I sought out funding for a magnet prep school where I could implement my idea of a year-round school based on Upward Bound principles and practices.
Although my time is now consumed with my role as a commentator for CNN and a writer and columnist for Essence
Magazine, I have never forgotten my roots and how my participation in Upward Bound has helped me. I think that Upward Bound has been so profoundly successful because it’s teaching children to fish instead of giving them fish. “The students have to go to school year round and bust their humps, as well as on the weekends. So what they get, they earned.”