Grace Bunch

The Joliet Junior College group, TRIO Educational Talent Search (ETS), is a college readiness program to help JTHS students prepare for college, visit colleges, help with FAFSA, Financial Aid, and much more. TRIO offers services like tutoring, FAFSA workshops, and many other services. TRIO is 100% federally funded for $1.2 million by the U.S. Department of Education from 2016-2021. Outreach specialists, Jailen Jones, Erica Tucker, TRIO coordinator, Latrese Bradshaw, and TRIO director, DeAndre Butler all make the team for TRIO. The program helps identify and support their students who are eligible for this program and have a potential to succeed in higher education. ETS advisors provide academic, career, and financial assistance, as well as encourage students to graduate high school and attend college. 

Jailen Jones enjoys most about TRIO is the family-oriented department, the leadership style of the director, and the endless support given by his family and the Joliet community. After asking to give some simple advice for students who are interested in TRIO, he responded, “I would advise students to sign up, like, yesterday! A free federally funded program, that specializes in exposing you to perspectives and experiences that have not been ‘programmed’ into you. College tours, workshops, and healthy personal relationships to name a few. Wait, did I mention free?”  TRIO visited many colleges like Spelman, Vanderbilt, Morehouse, and Atlanta Metro. Out of the many trips that Jones has participated in, he especially loved the out-of-state college trip to Atlanta. Apart from college visits, they also visited places like Georgia Aquarium, which is labeled the biggest aquarium in the USA, and Six Flags with Hurricane Harbor. The one thing he enjoyed was seeing the thankfulness of the students and parents of TRIO; the happiness they portrayed after the trips. In regards to COVID-19, TRIO has shifted from working at the college to working from home. Jones was asked about how he felt about the changes. His answer: “Working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic has been an adjustment. Not only does it challenge your comfort zone, but it also challenges your discipline. However, assisting students that are experiencing what most of us have never had to, has proved to be the most challenging aspect. We pride ourselves in putting the student first, so we have carried on with workshops, exposure to college tours, and even a movie club! Though COVID-19 has been challenging, every student that we can reach and assist brings joy that not even a pandemic can take away.”
Latrese Bradshaw enjoys working for TRIO because it is a great family to be a part of. She stated, “I love that TRIO offers free resources to disadvantaged students who may not otherwise have the opportunity to learn and grow in ways outside of the classroom. I love that TRIO is a family; always uplifting, supporting and encouraging in more ways other than one.” Bradshaw explains that she has many goals for TRIO: To help the program grow, offering services to more students who are interested in TRIO and to help all her graduating TRIO students have a fundamental understanding of what it takes to be successful after high school and to take on life challenges. TRIO is known for hosting workshops, field trips and many more activities. They hosted events like “How to Write a Resume,” “Guy Talk,” and “Girl Talk,”. In terms of COVID-19, Bradshaw has adjusted to the working environment: “To be honest, it has not been an easy task  to completely restructure our program. The TRIO staff has been accustomed to daily face-to-face interactions with students which helps to foster more meaningful relationships and connections with students. So with COVID-19 and being a 100% virtual program comes great challenges for us.” They have been declining with students in their workshops during this time, but TRIO hopes to earn more students.