TRIO/Student Support Services: a community for first-generation students 

TRIO/Student Support Services (TRIO/SSS) is one of the many programs available at Cleveland State University that students, as a collective, are not entirely familiar with. However, the wide range of assistance and support that TRIO/SSS offers are beyond worthwhile to the CSU student body.

Cullin Fish, the assistant director of TRIO/SSS and an advisor, has worked at Cleveland State University since June 2018 and has been serving in higher education since 2013. He grew up 20 minutes outside of downtown Cleveland and is committed to his mission of serving students from Northeast Ohio to positively impact the community that he calls home.

TRIO/SSS, as Fish defines, is “a federally funded grant program aimed to help first-generation or Pell-eligible college students. The government funds TRIO/SSS to help students find their passion and provide services the whole time they are enrolled in the program.” 

There are two ways a student can be a part of these services: either by being Pell-eligible, or a first-generation college student. Being Pell-eligible means that you, as a student, would be able to receive FAFSA’s Federal Pell Grant. Being first-generation means that neither of your parents/guardians completed a 4-year degree, meaning if your parent/guardian only received their associate’s degree, or, for example, they went to college for 3 years and then dropped out, you would be considered First-Generation.

“It is also important to note that TRIO/SSS is funded to serve students who are U.S. Citizens and or legal permanent residents,” Fish said. “International students on CSU’s campus looking for support should contact the Center for International Services and Program.”

As mentioned earlier, TRIO/SSS provides many services to its students, including but not limited to advising, tutoring, success coaches, and events. They host about 15-20 events per semester, ranging from as simple as a volunteer opportunity to a more large-scale event such as a Valentine’s Day celebration the program hosted earlier this year that featured food and games.

What makes CSU’s TRIO/SSS program particularly special is that it is one of the only TRIO programs in Ohio to provide advising; most colleges only have advising, first-year and sometimes beyond, based solely on your major. However, advising through TRIO/SSS means that you would be assigned an advisor at the beginning of your experience  at CSU and receive assistance with scheduling or academic issues until graduation.

TRIO/SSS also offers success coaches and tutors, which are upper-class TRIO/SSS students hired to work for students who are newer to the program. Some success coaches are assigned to incoming freshmen to help them navigate their first year in college, while others help specifically with academic warning/probation students to help them get back on the right track. The tutoring program is one-on-one based ,offering a large variety of courses to assist students. 

Fish shared what he feels the program’s goal is for the next five years:

“TRIO/SSS has been around for the last 50 or so years, and we have made great progress so far, so doing what we’ve always done will definitely help us succeed,” he began. “This world is always changing, so we need to keep up with what students need from us, and that pushes us to do better. So to pull that all together, TRIO/SSS should keep our foundation strong, but adapt to help future students succeed in the best way possible.”

Despite being the assistant director, Fish also works within the program as an advisor. He shared that while his role as an advisor is fairly straightforward, his role as assistant director includes hands-on projects such as marketing, event planning, supervising and more.

“The most rewarding part about this role is just working with students as a whole, it keeps me excited because no day is the same,” Fish said. “You get to see a lot of students come in their freshman year and really put in effort and dedication not only in the academic sense but in themselves as well.”

As previously mentioned, TRIO/SSS works heavily with first-generation freshmen to help them acclimate to the unfamiliar environment introduced by university life. Fish said that because a first-generation student likely doesn’t have a family member with university experience, the best piece of advice for first-generation freshman is to search for at least one person to turn to on campus, be it a professor or dining hall employee.

“Advocating for yourself will not only help you in school but learning that skillset early is guaranteed to find you success in whatever your future looks like.”

Fish also emphasized the endless supply of resources that CSU offers beyond TRIO/SSS, from the writing center to counseling services. 

“I would recommend students get involved—you don’t have to be 100% invested in an organization, but opening up to different opportunities to meet other students will help your college experience greatly.”

TRIO/SSS is located in Berkman Hall Room 110 at Cleveland State University. You can learn more about the program by visiting their website. You can also contact TRIO through email at or telephone at 216-687-2404.