High schoolers get a taste of the Trojan life
Every summer, USC’s dorms sit empty for months, waiting for the new cohort of freshmen to arrive in late August. During this hiatus, high school students from the surrounding communities are invited to get a slice of Trojan life through the TRiO Summer Residential Program.
For 35 years, USC has hosted the summer residential program, part of a series of federally funded programs situated in USC Civic Engagement that gives local teens a taste of the college experience. For the past month, 150 high school students from South Central schools, including Crenshaw High, the Foshay Learning Center and others, have been living in USC dorms, studying in campus classrooms and receiving mentoring by university students.
To be eligible for the program, students have to attend afterschool and weekend study programs during the year, where they receive tutoring in their regular subjects as well as college preparatory courses. They also have to be first-generation college students.
Iman Europe, a creative writing major who is graduating this summer, is a former member of the TRiO Summer Residential Program. For Europe, watching over a new group of teens as a resident adviser (R.A.) at the Elisabeth Von KleinSmid Memorial Residence Hall on the University Park Campus is a way to give back.
“I’m giving the helping hand that was given to me when I was in the program,” she said. “I honestly feel like if I didn’t go through this, I probably wouldn’t have gone to college.”
Europe said the TRiO program taught her how to study and gave her a wake-up call to just how challenging — and rewarding — college life could be. The preparatory classes taught her how to manage her time and fill out applications for college admission and financial aid.
But the students who arrive have more than just academic challenges, Europe said. Many are also dealing with domestic and social problems. The R.A.s help by providing an open ear — and more importantly, by knowing what the students are going through.
“I’m able to see who I was before through them,” Europe said. “I’m able to see how far I’ve come, and I know I’ve come a long way. I know I’m going to graduate, and I want to see the same happen for all these kids.”
Jennifer Cardoza, a political science and Chicano studies double major, also went through the program and is currently serving as an R.A. Walking the campus as a high school student in the program was impressive, she said, but minority students can still feel a little uncomfortable in that new environment. When students ask about her experience, Cardoza can help them feel like they belong there. She reassures them that an inner-city student from a low-income background can get into a tier-one school such as USC.
“It’s more than an academic program,” Cardoza added. “If you need something because you’re having personal issues, they’ll help you. It helped me realize there are people who want you to succeed.”