TRIO SSS-STEM Program Creates Pathway to Success for Islander Students

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Curating a unique program of resources to aid first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented undergraduate students pursuing a degree in the STEM field, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s Student Support Services – STEM program has positively impacted the academic success of more than 100 Islander students through its holistic and individualized support system.

SSS-STEM’s mission is to increase the rates of academic achievement, retention, and graduation among historically underrepresented students majoring in the fields of science, technology, engineering, math, or health sciences by providing a holistic and individualized support system.

First-generation college student turned Islander alumna Gisel Morales '20 earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the Island University. Juggling academics while working to help pay tuition, Morales said it is through the SSS-STEM Program that she received countless opportunities, including scholarships and academic coaching.

“As a first-generation student, I found it difficult to turn to my parents for help regarding college courses or how to apply for FAFSA since they had never done that before,” she said. “Through the SSS-STEM Program, I received help choosing my schedule and applying for scholarships. The scholarships I received helped me afford my books, among other things, and lowered the extra hours I had to work.”

Participants in TRIO SSS-STEM receive individualized academic advising, coaching, mentoring, career advising, financial aid counseling, and assistance in overcoming any personal issue that might affect their performance. Program participants also have access to a private computer lab, technology lending, free printing, cultural and educational trips, graduate school visits, service and leadership opportunities, skill improvement workshops, and so much more.

“The tutoring resources, as well as the workshops, were some of my favorite things,” Morales said. “The workshops gave us great tips on how to manage our time, our finances, and how to handle the stress of our courses.”

First-generation college student and Islander alumnus Robert Bretzing-Tungate '20 attended A&M-Corpus Christi to pursue his dream of studying marine biology. As he now continues his education as a TAMU-CC graduate student, Bretzing-Tungate credits much of his undergraduate collegiate success to the academic coaching he received as a member of the SSS-STEM Program.

“No matter how you feel about it, college can be hard. For us first-generation students and others, more often than not, we don’t have an external support system to help us through the trials and tribulations of higher education,” he said. “Having the opportunity to join a program that is designed to give you guidance, help you find a sense of belonging on campus, and give you the chance to meet like-minded students is not something you want to skip.”

Heather Herrera, SSS-STEM Director, says that she and her team find immense satisfaction in helping students perform at their highest potential.

“I am dedicated to assisting our students as they pursue higher education as we have the power to make a difference in our student’s lives,” said Herrera. “Our staff is also committed to providing a welcoming, caring environment that embraces the unique qualities and strengths that each participant embodies. As a first-generation graduate myself, I know the challenges faced by our student participants. Still, with the right resources, tools, and support, our students can work to overcome the challenges and succeed”

Students who are interested in applying to the TRIO SSS-STEM Program can visit or contact 361.825.4332.