Category Archives: Student Success

Omorinsola Ajayi RLC grad speaker Meet Our Student Graduation Speaker

Omorinsola Ajayi

Women’s Initiative Network 2020 Woman of the Year

The purpose of the Richland College Women’s Initiative Network (WIN!) is to empower and support female students in creating a strong academic foundation upon which to build lifelong success.

Omorinsola earned an Associate of Science in Human Resources Management. She plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas at Dallas, join the Society of Human Resources Management at UTD and take the SHRM-CP certification exam her senior year to get an early edge on an HR career.

"I was really blessed to have such a wonderful community at Richland, and it made me realize that all the achievements and success I attained are not worth it if I do not have people to share my joy with."

Omorinsola Ajayi WIN! Woman of the Year 2020

"Community college is incredibly affordable compared to university, and financial aid and numerous scholarships are available. And if you are scared that you won’t succeed, you never know until you try. Do not think about what will happen if you fail. Focus on what would happen if you do succeed."

"School may not be easy, but nothing good in life is. It is important to think long-term about the life you want to have and where you want to be. There is so much potential in every single person, but a lot of people waste it because they’re scared of the journey. Do not let fear of failure keep you from chasing your dreams."

Watch Richland’s virtual graduation at 8 p.m. Saturday, June 13 on the DCCCD YouTube channel or the DCCCD Facebook page.

dcccd.edu/grad2020


a man smiling for the camera Ferdinando Castro Wins Hall of Honor Medal for Phi Theta Kappa

Congratulations to Ferdinando Castro, who recently won the Hall of Honor Medal for Phi Theta Kappa. He is one of seven students in Texas, which has a total of 55 Phi Theta Kappa chapters, to win this award.  

Ferdinando is an international student from Venezuela, speaks five languages, is a former professional athlete and completed 300 hours of service-learning last semester, earning the President’s Volunteer Service Award – Silver. This semester, he is going for gold, which requires completion of 500 service hours in a year. He is involved in 14 student organizations at Richlandhe is the SGA Region 2 Resolution Committee Chair who led the creation of several resolutions with fellow SGA members and he recently presented original research at the Richland Honors Conference on Gun Violence Prevention. Fernando will graduate in Dec. 2020 with the designation of Richland Honors Scholar, the highest honors designation available at Richland.  

“I am honored knowing that thousands of chapters in the nation apply for this award, and very few students are able to win it,” said Ferdinando. “Volunteering is important to me because I experienced what happens when communities do not support each other. 

When he lived in Venezuela, Ferdinando was a professional athlete in two different sports. His twin brother (a current Richland student) and his older brother (a former Richland soccer player and student) convinced him to visit them in Texas when the political and economic system in Venezuela started to fail and showed no signs of recovery. He resisted at first because he was living with his mother in Venezuela and playing soccer professionally, but his path became clear when a serious injury resulting from an illegal tackle ended his career. 

I regret that I was not involved in my communities back then, so I decided to take this opportunity as a chance to grow as a human being,” explained Ferdinando. “I do not want anyone to go through what my country is experiencing right now, and I will do whatever I can to ensure that it does not happen. I was not sure how to do so though, so my response was to join as many organizations as I could and volunteer for as much as it was possible. It turned out that I was able to do more than I thought I could, and in doing so, help others feel more motivated as well. So, it has become a passion for me and a fulfilling way of living. 

He is working hard to get the gold presidential volunteering service award this year to prove that an international student can get this type of recognition from the White House. He also thought it would look nice for the Hospitality, Exhibition and Event Management Club to have recorded hours of service to the community. His involvement led to many students and clubs wanting to be more active on campus and asking Ferdinando for advice on how to do that. Being an inspiration helped motivate him to keep trying. Finally, he loves volunteering because he always likes to aim to be better, and he loves a good challenge.  

Last semester, Ferdinando completed 275 hours of community service, and this semester he has more than 350 hours (and he is still doing some despite being quarantined). “I believe that now, more than ever, it is important to show that no matter the circumstances in which we are living, we can still achieve our goals; moreover, our communities need help more than ever,” he said.  

Ferdinando is currently pursuing his associate degree in Applied Science in HEEM at Richland College, where he expects to graduate in fall 2020. He then plans to transfer to a four-year university to earn a bachelor’s degree and become a meeting and event planner. “I plan to create events where people gather to share ideas on how to improve our world or to provide a better community service,” Ferdinando explained. “I am fascinated by how much human interaction can shape our world, by giving them a tool to have a better future. After earning my bachelor’s degree, my goal is to be able to work internationally and help as many other cultures as possible. I want to make an impact and create international events where we can ensure a better future for the next generations.” 

If there is one thing Ferdinando has learned, it’s that life is unpredictable. All he can do is focus on what’s ahead of him and take every opportunity that is available. He hopes that he can reach those who are feeling limited or hopeless and inspire them to take action 

“I was not aiming to obtain recognitions; I just wanted to be engaged in my communities and to give back to the institution that gave me a second chance in life,” he said. “Before I started this path, I was depressed, feeling alone in a country that seemed to despise my culture, and not knowing exactly what to do after losing everything I built. My goal was only to learn from my past mistakes and to help others, and in the process of doing so, I obtained so much more than I asked. I am now happy, full of wonderful people I can call friends all over the world, and I have a clearer objective in life. If I was able to do so, I guarantee you that anybody can as long as they take actions and stay authentic.” 

“We are thankful for Ferdinando’s engagement with Richland and the DCCCD and his influence on the entire state of Texas,” said Kathleen Stephens, honors program director. “His engagement has made our college, state and country a better place, and we can learn much from his example, engagement and excellence.” 

Congratulations to Ferdinando and thank you for all your service to the community! 


front cover Richland Chronicle April 8th edition featuring photo of flower bed and Richland College marquee showing Classes Online Closed Campus Access Not Permitted message Student Newspaper Available Online

The Richland College student newspaper, the Richland Chronicle, is still being published during these weeks of COVID 19 social distancing. Articles are featured on the RichlandStudentMedia.com website.


Illustration of locks that appear digital in nature Two Richland College Students Win $500 Scholarships from Cyber FastTrack Program

After completing several challenges during a period of five months, Richland College cyber security students Clayton Barbier and Reuben Seward each won $500 scholarships and made it to the semi-finals of Cyber FastTrack, advancing further than thousands of other students from universities and colleges around the country.

Cyber FastTrack is a free online cyber security challenge used to identify highly talented college students with a desire to enter the cyber workforce and provide them with the practical skills employers require.

Barbier and Seward participated in the CyberStart Assess challenge from April 5-May 10, the CyberStart Game from May 20-June 28 and the CyberStart Essentials from July 10-September 16. They completed challenges in forensics, intrusion detection, security operations, system and network penetration testing and application penetration testing.

Of the 13,289 students who started the program, only 2,579 made it to the quarter-finals and were invited to the CyberStart Game. They had five weeks to demonstrate their skills in more than 252 cyber security challenges, ranging from cryptography puzzles to advanced reverse engineering problems. From there, only 541 made it to the semi-finals. Those students gained access to CyberStart Essentials, an innovative online course that helps students achieve proficiency in the most valuable foundations of cyber security through hands-on exercise, quizzes, interactive labs and exams.

Richland College was designated as a Center of Digital Forensics Academic Excellence by the Department of Defense Cyber Crime Center in 2014. The goal of the program is to bring the latest technology and a vendor-neutral education, where instruction breaks away from traditional information technology training methods. Because independent thinking and problem solving are encouraged, students complete hands-on lab work and participate in collegiate competitions such as CCDC, National Cyber League and the Black T-Shirt Challenge. Graduates will be prepared to enter the workforce with technician-level skills and will be ready to complete industry certifications. Learn more by visiting www.richlandcollege.edu/cybersecurity.

For more information about Cyber FastTrack, visit www.cyber-fasttrack.org.


Richland College Logo E-Book About College Readiness Available to Prepare Students for the College Application Process

Going to college can be challenging, but Richland College TRIO Upward Bound program director Noeli Biggs and project leader Nazia Hossain think applying for college shouldn’t be. To help students with the process of college applications, Biggs and Hossain wrote an e-book, “College Readiness,” which is now published online in eCampus. This e-book is designed as a resource for students and their parents who are looking to apply to two- or four-year colleges or universities in the U.S. or study abroad.

“I always wanted to have all my college planning experience in one book,” said Biggs. “Then, working with first-generation and/or low-income students, I realized that they didn’t know where to get the information.”

Hossain added, “This book is important because the number one reason Americans do not enroll in college is because of not knowing how. We work with first-generation and/or low-income high school students¾many whose parents have had no college experience. This book fills in the missing gaps.”

Biggs and Hossain worked together to combine their several years’ college planning experience and create “College Readiness.” This e-book is “a one-stop spot for students and parents to learn about the college process,” explained Hossain. It contains information on college applications, tips for writing essays, exam comparisons of SAT and ACT, scholarship directories, phone applications, finances and more.

In the future, Biggs and Hossain plan to have the e-book translated into Spanish and hope to add additional chapters on topics such as housing and meal plans, selecting a roommate and what to expect in the first year of college.

“College Readiness” is available online for free to all Richland TRIO program students in eConnect. To view it, log in to https://econnect.dcccd.edu, and the e-book is available in Thunderduck Commons.


Headshot of Mouna Taroua Richland College Alumna Follows Her Dreams to Become a Biomedical Engineer, Crediting Richland With Much of Her Success

With an adventurous heart, a brave spirit and a little help from Richland College, Mouna Taroua is living her dreams. A Richland College alumna, Taroua is a lead anatomy engineer at Lazarus 3D, a startup company in Houston, TX. While people may see Taroua as an accomplished biomedical engineer, working on medical training simulators, presenting at conferences and regularly speaking up in board meetings, many would never know that when she first moved to Dallas from Casablanca, Morocco, in 2010, she did not know how to speak English.

Taroua moved to the U.S. as an 18-year-old college graduate. “It was a scary and exciting adventure at the same time–I didn’t know anyone here, and I wasn’t speaking English either. I spent my first year taking English for Speakers of Other Languages classes at Richland College and the following years getting my associate degree in science and fulfilling all the prerequisites for biomedical engineering.”

Taroua made lifelong memories at Richland. She had her first driving lessons in the Richland College parking lot. She met “life-changing” people while waiting at the bus station and practicing her English. She played golf for the first time during a P.E. class here. She worked her first ever job at the Richland College bookstore, starting as a temporary associate before working her way up to the team lead of floor operation. Taroua also loved the annual Multicultural Festival, looking forward to exploring different cultures and trying delicious food at the annual spring event.

“The campus is gorgeous,” said Taroua. “I loved walking around, especially in the early morning by the lake and looking at the geese and ducks. All the professors were always so helpful inside and outside the classroom. Also, it was very nice having a small number of students in each class; it made it easier to connect and meet with everyone. Easy access to tutoring for different subjects was also a huge plus. In addition, the STEM advisors were so great guiding me on my professional path. I always knew I wanted to pursue engineering, but I didn’t really know which field. I remember Mrs. Teresa Lynd walking me through each program along with each degree plan and answering all my questions until I made a final decision.”

One of the instructors who stood out the most to Taroua while at Richland College was Jennifer Millspaugh Gray, who teaches speech communication. After finishing her ESOL classes, Taroua took a speech class from Gray. It was a time during which Taroua didn’t feel very articulate or expressive with speaking English. “Jennifer Millspaugh Gray helped me overcome my fear of public speaking,” said Taroua. “I used to have extreme anxiety before each presentation–especially knowing that I would be talking in front of native speakers. I think she noticed my struggle, since I began every speech with, ‘I am sorry, English is not my primary language.’ After every speech, she would congratulate me and other international students on how well we did. Her encouragement and advice helped boost my self-esteem and made me want to speak and share my ideas with others, without feeling apologetic about my speaking mistakes.”

Gray fondly remembers Taroua as well. “I was just thinking about Mouna because I came across her LinkedIn profile, and I was stunned at how accomplished she’s become in such a short time,” said Gray. “I shouldn’t be surprised though–she really was a standout student. I have a traditional Moroccan plate in my office that she brought me as a gift, and she inspired me to travel to Morrocco several years ago. To this day, Mouna remains one of my most memorable and impressive students. She was–and still is–a confident and competent leader among her peers, an extremely determined student, and a compassionate, kind-hearted person. Thanks to technology, I can still keep in touch with Mouna, and I burst with pride every time I see her progress in her life and career. I am so honored to have been a part of her journey!”

In 2014, Taroua was among 18 Dallas County Community College students who were selected to be part of the Transition Summer Program at UNT Howard Hughes Medical Institute Program. The group spent five weeks performing genetic analysis on the genome sequence of different phages. In addition, she helped work on isolating bacteriophages from soil.

After earning her associate degree, Taroua transferred to the University of Texas at Dallas, where she graduated with a bachelor degree in biomedical engineering in 2017. At her job with Lazarus 3D, she works with 3D printing to create copies of extreme medical cases of patients’ organs so surgeons can prepare for upcoming operations. She also helps make medical training simulators that feel like real human tissue and mimic the mechanical properties of real anatomy. “Our products are different than the ones on the market because they are made of soft material instead of plastic; they can bleed, suture and be cut,” explained Taroua. “Doctors today practice on fruits and vegetables, which are very different from our anatomy, to learn how to perform many procedures. To decrease medical errors, we come up with suitable training models so doctors can operate with confidence.”

While the science classes Taroua took at Richland College helped her prepare for her future career, she didn’t realize until after she began working in the real-world how important her non-science classes were as well.

“The diverse classes that I took, such as public speaking, psychology, sociology and art, helped me develop my soft skills and my general knowledge, which are indispensable to the technical skills,” explained Taroua. “In sociology for example, we learned how to deal with and manage social conflict, which is common in my field. My public speaking class helped me overcome my fear of speaking in front of a big crowd, which is important when I am representing my company at conferences and when I express my professional opinion freely during a board meeting.”

Taroua’s best advice for international students at Richland College is to keep focusing on their goals, even if a million challenges come their way. “Moving to another country for college is a big step full of hiccups; however, it is a well-worth it experience, especially at Richland College where you will get all the support you need to succeed personally and professionally.”


Ari Rastegar smiling. | Photo courtesy of Forbes Richland Alumnus Ari Rastegar Featured in Forbes Article

Read about one of our outstanding alumni, Ari Rastegar, who was recently featured in a Forbes article! Ari is the CEO of the Texas-based Rastegar Property and one of the youngest investors in commercial projects across the state. Forbes recently covered his story and deemed him as the “Dallas Real Estate Underdog.”   

The story mentions Richland College, stating how Ari went here for a semester before graduating from Texas A&M University, then going on to get a law degree from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. Now, his firm boasts a multimillion-dollar diversified portfolio and builds commercial real estate in Dallas, Austin, Phoenix and other areas.  

Read the full article here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/candaceevans/2019/09/03/ari-rastegar-the-dallas-real-estate-underdog/#5e3446974548 


Ashlynn Norris poses, wearing a Richland College lanyard and a NASA t-shirt. Richland College Student Accepted Into NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars Program

Reaching for the stars is a normal part of life for Richland College honors student Ashlynn Norris, who was recently chosen as a NASA Community College Aerospace Scholar. This hardworking young woman joined other community college STEM students from across the country in getting an authentic NASA experience.

“I felt breathlessly excited when I found out I was chosen as an NCAS,” said Norris. “I have always dreamed of being involved in a NASA program, but I generally believed that it wasn’t attainable. Seeing that email was a confirmation that I could maybe have a chance to pursue things I always believed were out of reach.”

As an NCAS student, Norris had the opportunity to engage in research and learning opportunities with NASA during a five-week online course that ended July 3. During the course, students learned about NASA’s past, present and future missions, as well as the science, technology and engineering that happen behind the scenes.

“In the last five years, we’ve only had one other NASA Community College Aerospace Scholar,” said Kathleen Stephens, Richland College Honors Program coordinator. “It is a very competitive program that requires an application and letters of recommendation. As we seek to increase the number of women in STEM fields, I’m particularly excited for Ashlynn to have this opportunity.”

Norris and the other students heard from NASA subject matter experts, including Stu McClung, project planning manager for the Orion program; Trent Smith, project manager for VEGGIE, the in-orbit garden on the ISS; and Lisa Spence, a manager in NASA’s Human Research Project.

“These talks have been wonderful because neither Stu nor Trent were linear, normal students,” said Norris. “They both had a very interesting road to NASA and offered a lot of hope and wisdom to those who aren’t standard students, showing that anyone can participate in NASA if they work for it.”

Upon course completion, qualifying students are invited to tour a NASA facility and work with NASA scientists and engineers on-site. The students will visit NASA space center nearest them and participate in a four-day on-site study of the current Moon to Mars campaign. During this trip, students will attend lectures with current engineers, research tasks and complete challenges.

“I am most excited about the opportunities that this experience can give me,” added Norris. “I am blown away with how welcoming, enthusiastic and driven every single NASA employee I’ve interacted with is, and they’ve made a point to tell everyone that there is a place for anyone here, making sure that we understand we’re welcome. Being an NCAS student comes with opportunities down the line as well.”

Norris told her Richland College Honors Program advisors about a project some former NCAS student researchers spearheaded, in which a payload of micro-algae was sent to the International Space Station for a week to see how the plant would respond under stress. The plant produces a powerful antioxidant that NASA believes may be able to help fight the heavy strain on astronauts’ bodies while in micro-gravity. NASA has agreed to ship samples of this algae to Richland College’s biology department to be studied by students to see how micro-algae grown in space differs structurally.

“Ashlynn is new to the Honors Program, but she has already excitedly shared a way to enrich the program by giving us information about space algae that could potentially be used in an honors science classroom and for the science boot camp led by Dr. Dwight Randle,” said Stephens.

Upon graduating Richland College, Norris plans to transfer to UT Dallas to pursue a bachelor’s degree in software engineering. She has always been intrigued by artificial intelligence and the advancement of the exploration of space, and she hopes to have the opportunity to work with NASA one day.

“No one should give up on themselves just because they may be a non-linear, busy or working student,” said Norris. “It is never too late to pursue things that you love, and Richland College and NCAS have done a wonderful job of reminding me of that.”

The Richland College Honors Program provides highly qualified students with an enriched and challenging academic community where they develop the capabilities necessary to excel in their educational and career goals. In May 2019, 24 students with the Richland Honors Scholar designation and 24 additional students with the Richland Honors Certificate designation graduated from Richland College. Learn more about the Richland College Honors Program at https://www.richlandcollege.edu/cd/instruct-divisions/rlc/mshp/honors-program/pages/default.aspx.

NCAS gives community college STEM students an authentic NASA experience and encourages them to finish their degrees and eventually pursue a NASA-related career. Eligible students must be U.S. citizens, high school graduates or equivalent, at least 18-years-old, registered at a U.S. community college, have concurrent enrollment or completion of 9 or more hours of STEM coursework and able to commit to a five-week online session. More information is available at nas.okstate.edu/ncas/.


Four people sitting on a stage in a discussion ‘Minority Serving Institution’ Convening Attendees Gain Valuable Insight About Equity and Inclusion

In keeping with its mission of teaching, learning and community building, Richland College, in collaboration with the Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution program, has hosted each fall since 2016 the Minority Serving Institution Convening, a conference dedicated to providing higher education professionals with tools to impact the academic success of students at minority-serving institutions. After attending the 2018 MSI Convening, “Minority Student Success: Using Data to Effect Change,” last October, many attendees left the convening with more than just insight on how to achieve minority student success: some also left with a zeal to put ideas learned into practice and provide education and encouragement for others to follow in those same footsteps.

As an MSI Student Fellow, Richland College student Camryn Morrow was nominated by a faculty member to participate in the 2018 MSI Convening. Of everything Morrow heard at the convening, one thing impacted her the most: the importance of showing empathy. “The MSI Convening helped Richland College because it emphasized that professors should go beyond just teaching¾even expressing an ounce of empathy ensures that all students have the same opportunity to succeed,” said Morrow.

Overall, Morrow was encouraged by what she learned at the MSI Convening. “I found the presentations to be reassuring,” she said. “They showed that despite what we don’t see, many things are happening behind the scenes to fix what students consider to be some of the most prevalent of issues, including race. I would highly recommend others attend a future MSI Convening to learn more.” Morrow will also be attending the 2019 MSI Convening, this time to share her experiences at the 2018 conference and as a student at Richland College.

Cassandra Himes, College Connections advisor at the College of the Mainland in Texas City, also attended the 2018 MSI Convening. Upon returning to their institution, Himes and her colleague, Stephanie Dilissio, used what they learned at the convening and put together a presentation for the COM Student Services Leadership Council to share their takeaways and actionable items. Now COM is using the practices and information Himes and Dilissio acquired to examine the college’s processes, including the way COM collects data, the need for all units at COM to collect and analyze quantitative data and the importance of initiating courageous conversations about equity, inclusive excellence and quality programs.

“After attending the MSI Convening, I have a clearer understanding of equity, inclusive excellence and quality, and how to translate those into campus practice,” said Himes. “I approach my work with the guiding question: ‘How can we, at College of the Mainland, continue to improve the way we collect and use quantitative data to design, evaluate, modify and improve programs and initiatives to address the success of minority and underserved students?’ On a personal level, the MSI Convening reignited my commitment to the statement ‘all means all.’”

Himes plans on returning to Richland College to attend the 2019 MSI Convening, and she encourages all higher education professionals to do the same.

Jennifer Baggett, professor of biology at Richland College and MSI Convening faculty program chair, said, “By working hard to provide a high-quality, free conference with nationally recognized speakers, we have created an affordable opportunity for community colleges and other minority-serving institutions to convene, collaborate and learn about research and programs in a data-focused way to improve minority student success. The feedback we’ve received from attendees has been overwhelmingly positive, especially about the quality of presenters, both invited and those selected from breakout session proposals.”

The MSI Convening provides an opportunity for educators and other higher education professionals devoted to student success to gather and participate in presentations and discussions about using data to modify and improve programs and initiatives that address the success of minority and underserved students. The 2019 MSI Convening will be at Richland College Oct. 18-19. Proposals to present are being accepted now through June 7. The MSI Convening is made possible in part through a grant from the AANAPISI program of the Department of Education.

Richland College serves as more than just the host college¾it completely plans and executes the conference each year. The planning team is led by convening chair and executive dean for the School of Social Sciences LaQueta L. Wright, faculty program chairs Baggett, Michael Puente and Rolanda Randle, and faculty logistics chair M.T. Hickman. This team identified the theme and created the structure for a four-year series of conferences, “Using Data to Effect Change”; secured funding support from community partners; invited and guided nationally recognized keynote and plenary speakers; solicited and selected breakout session proposals; oversaw the creation of the conference website, call for proposals and registration system; organized and planned facilities, food and host hotels for the convening, including the evening networking reception and breakfast and lunch on both days; and oversaw the advertising and marketing of the convening, both locally and nationally.

“As the final year of our four-year, grant-funded MSI Convening series approaches, we look forward to seeing what Richland College does from here,” added Baggett. “We have built new relationships with community colleges and four-year minority-serving institutions over the last few years, and we look forward to cementing those relationships into collaborations that lead us all forward in our efforts to improve student success through data-informed programs and initiatives.”

Holding two designations by the U.S. Department of Education as an AANAPISI and a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI), Richland College is one of only nine higher education institutions in the U.S. awarded the AANAPISI grant in fiscal year 2015. With 16% of Richland College’s student population comprised of Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander students and at least half demonstrating financial need, AANAPISI funding impacts many of the college’s underserved students. The program helps Richland College to increase the three-year graduation rate for AAPI students who have one or more risks to success and completion, such as financial need or academic challenges.

For more information about the 2019 MSI Convening, visit www.richlandcollege.edu/msi-convening.


Colin Allred and Richland President Kay Eggleston pose together. Rep. Colin Allred Speaks at Richland College TRIO Student Support Services Ceremony

Richland College TRIO Student Support Services honored six students as TRIO Achievers at the 2019 TRIO Day Student Success Celebration, attended by Rep. Colin Allred (TX-32), Apr. 24. The students honored were Whitney Boyer, Nick Gjonaj, Felicia Keto, Christian Lara, Cedrick Munongo and Brytha Nkrumah.

“The federal TRIO programs are a set of educational opportunity programs established in 1964 that enable either first-generation-to-college or low-income students and underrepresented special needs populations to earn college degrees,” said Kathryn K. Eggleston, Richland College president. “The Richland College TRIO Student Support Services program is a component of the federal TRIO programs.”

At the event, Rep. Allred addressed the students and other guests, praising the accomplishments of the TRIO Achievers and encouraging the students not to give up on their version of the American dream.

“I want to congratulate the students here at Richland College, and the families who supported them, who succeeded in part because of this wonderful TRIO program,” said Rep. Allred. “This program, and really the charge of Richland College generally, provides opportunities for so many students throughout north Texas.”

Following Rep. Allred’s remarks, students Keto, Lara, Munongo and Nkrumah each told their personal stories of hardship and ultimate success in a TED Talks-style format. Keto, Munongo and Nkrumah are immigrants to the U.S. and outlined the paths they took not just to arrive in the U.S., but to succeed at Richland College. Lara, a first generation American, shared his story of his troubled past, showing a determination not only to succeed, but thrive.

“Success is the biggest thing that we should strive for, and we should never let anyone take that away from us,” Lara said. “The only person that can stop us is ourselves.”

The presentation, recorded by Richland Student Media, is available in its entirety at www.richlandstudentmedia.com/videos/trio.

TRIO programs assist students in overcoming the obstacles they face as the first generation in their families to attend and graduate from a college or university. Today, an estimated 5 million students have graduated from college with the support and assistance of TRIO programs across the country. For more information about TRIO programs, visit www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ope/trio/index.html.

Since 1993, The TRIO-SSS program at Richland College has assisted eligible students in achieving their academic pursuits by offering several customized academic components designed to increase college retention and graduation rates. These free services include academic advisement, tutoring, assistance in financial aid application, university field trips, college success workshops and cultural enrichment opportunities. For more information, visit www.richlandcollege.edu/sss.