CANAAN VALLEY, W.Va. — Last month during a joint Conference of the West Virginia TRIO Association and the West Virginia Association of Student Personnel Administrators (WVASPA) hosted at Canaan Valley Resort in Tucker County, W.Va., Wayne County native Marlenea Brand was recognized as West Virginia’s 2019 Outstanding TRIO Achiever.

Years ago in support of a commitment to providing educational opportunities to all Americans, regardless of economic circumstance, Congress established a series of programs to help low-income and first-generation Americans enter college, graduate and move on to participate more fully in America’s economic and social life. These programs are funded under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 and are referred to as TRIO programs.

While student financial aid programs help students overcome financial barriers to higher education, TRIO programs help students overcome class, social and cultural barriers to higher education.

The Federal TRIO Programs are Upward Bound, Educational Talent Search, Educational Opportunity Centers, Upward Bound Math & Science, Veteran’s Upward Bound, Student Support Services, and Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement.

Brand’s first interaction with TRIO was in 2007 when she became a participant of the West Virginia University Student Support Services.

Brand met both the low income and first-generation qualifiers of the Student Support Services TRIO program. She participated in all components of the WVU Student Support program throughout her college career and attributed the program’s support in helping her overcome the barriers of college entry and completion.

“If it was not for Student Support Services or the Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Program, I can assure anyone who would listen that I would not be where I am today,” Brand said in her acceptance speech. “In fact, I think I would have had to go back home and become the person my family wanted me to be. I would be living in poverty and would have given up on all of my dreams all because I felt lost and disconnected in college. They saved my life and helped me achieve my goals, offering me unwavering support along the way. Because of them, I now try to help every student that needs it in any way I can. They gave me that ability.”

Brand graduated from Tolsia High School in Fort Gay, West Virginia, and then headed to West Virginia University in Morgantown.

By 2012, she had completed a Bachelor of Arts with dual majors in Anthropology and Religious Studies with a minor in Women and Gender Studies from WVU.

Upon graduation, Brand worked to assist other students as an advising service member and then as a Graduate Intern for SSS creating a Student Ambassador Mentoring Program, working as a Teaching Assistant and a Residential Education and Life-Live and Learn Community Specialist all while she pursued and obtained a Masters of Public Administration with a Cultural Resource Management Certification from her alma mater.

Brand’s dedication to providing opportunities for herself and others continued as she began working for the University College as an Academic Counselor at Marshall University.

She is currently working on a graduate certificate in Integrated Strategic Communications from Marshall and is serving as the Administrative Director of Graduate Studies in the Office of Research and Graduate Education at Marshall University’s Joan C. Edward’s School of Medicine in Huntington.

“TRIO program’s efforts provided a means for me to have fees waived because of my socio-economic status. Staff would listen to me and tell me they believed in me and reminded me that I could do this,” Brand eagerly noted to WVASPA and WV TRIO Conference attendees. “They taught me to treat people with kindness and that anyone could succeed if they had the right support system and determination. This is a lesson I live by now and have taken it with me into my own career in education.”

The mission of the WV TRIO is to promote equal educational opportunity and greater accessibility to higher education for TRIO eligible students. WV TRIO seeks to broaden access to and retention in post-secondary education for low-income, first-generation, veteran, or disabled students. To learn more please see WVTRIO.org or contact their Executive Board at wvtrio@gmail.com.

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