Program Profile: TRIO SSS helps students succeed

Upon arriving at SMCC, Riley Himmelman turned to the TRIO Student Support Services program for the guidance and support they were looking for to succeed in college.

As a first-generation college student 10 years removed from earning a GED, Himmelman had no inkling of what to expect in college. With TRIO, Himmelman received help and encouragement to thrive academically and personally in an environment that was totally foreign.

Himmelman is one of hundreds of students who have benefited in recent years from TRIO’s individualized advising, tutoring, peer mentoring and other services aimed at helping students achieve academic success. With a new federal grant awarded last summer, SMCC’s TRIO program can now serve up to 240 students each year.

On track to earn a Liberal Studies degree in the spring of 2022, Himmelman credits TRIO with their success at SMCC. Himmelman, who has a 3.75 GPA, plans to transfer after graduation to the University of Southern Maine and continue their undergraduate education before moving onto a master’s degree.

TRIO also gave Himmelman the confidence to become a community organizer and advocate for people who are homeless. They started an organization called Youth Without Barriers to help young people who are without a home.

“I didn’t know what I was doing when I first came to SMCC. I was overwhelmed, and TRIO gave me the community and support that I needed, even when I didn’t know I needed it,” Himmelman said. “I like how it’s run, because it feels like a collaboration, it feels like we’re working together for a common goal. Honestly, without TRIO I might have dropped out.”

SMCC opened a TRIO Student Support Services office in 2015 after the College received a five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education to work with 140 individuals. TRIO counselors work with students on college processes and discuss their goals and how the College can support them on their academic and personal pathways.

After re-evaluating SMCC’s need for support, the Department of Education awarded SMCC two grants last summer allowing the TRIO program to expand its offering to up to 240 students at one time. Katharine Lualdi, director of SMCC’s TRIO program, encourages students to learn more about the program and how it can benefit them.

“We are invested in our students from day one of their college careers through graduation,” Lualdi said. “Studies show that academic success leads to career success. TRIO’s services are an investment in our students, in the College and in the state of Maine.”

For more information about the program and to see eligibility requirements, students can visit the program’s webpage or contact the TRIO office at