In support of a commitment in 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.
Recently during the joint Conference of the West Virginia TRIO Association and the West Virginia Association of Student Personnel held at Canaan Valley Resort in Tucker County WV, Erika Smith was recognized as West Virginia’s 2018 Outstanding TRIO Achiever.
Smith’s first interaction with TRIO was in 2004 when she became a participant during her sophomore year of high school in the Davis & Elkins College Upward Bound Program, serving Randolph, Barbour and Tucker Counties. She met both the low income and first-generation qualifiers of the Upward Bound TRIO program. Smith participated in the academic year and summer components of the Davis & Elkins College Upward Bound program throughout her high school career and attributes the programs academic support in helping her and her family overcome the barriers of college entry and completion.
Smith graduated Valedictorian from Tucker County High School in 2007. She enrolled in College English and History during the Davis & Elkins College Upward Bound Bridge Program providing her with six hours of college credit prior to furthering her education at West Virginia University. She graduated from West Virginia University in 2011 with honors, Summa Cum Laude, with a Bachelor of Science in Interior Design. During her time at WVU, she studied abroad for a semester in London. She continued her education receiving a graduate certificate in Cultural Resource Management (Historic Preservation) in 2012 from WVU while simultaneously completing a year of service as an AmeriCorps for the Appalachian Forest Heritage Area on the hands-on historic preservation team.
Smith worked as a freelance designer after college in Thomas. Since 2012 she has been very active in her home town and invested herself back in the county and community where she was raised. She is a board member of New Historic Thomas, a non-profit community group dedicated to revitalizing the City of Thomas by preserving its history, cultural heritage, and resources that make the city unique. She is also a board member on the Tucker Community Foundation, a local philanthropic organization that manages $23 million, serving eight counties by providing support for communities through grants and scholarships to nonprofits and individuals.
Smith is of an entrepreneurial spirit and wanted to stake her roots deeper into the place that built her. She began Ella & Company in 2015 and added a brick and mortar shop in Thomas in 2016. This is a creative multifaceted business specializing in Wedding & Event Planning & Design, Vintage Event Rentals, Florals, and Interior Design. Ella and Company also has a retail shop of unique antiques, home goods, furnishings and handmade decor.
The mission of 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 [email protected].