By Nikki Martinez
The CSU-Pueblo and Pueblo Community College TRiO programs teamed up with the organization Neighborworks to perform community service at the Sangre de Cristo Hospice, Saturday, Feb. 25, in celebration of National TRiO Day.
TRiO is a government program that exists to assist low-income, first generation and minority students with their college endeavors.
National TRiO Day serves as a day of service and recognition for the TRiO programs, which include Upward Bound, Veteran’s Upward Bound, Student Support Services and the Southern Colorado Equal Opportunity Center.
The effort began with a drive collecting donated books, toys and art supplies for the Sangre de Cristo Hospice, which ended Saturday, Feb. 25.
The hospice provides terminally ill patients with medical, physical and emotional support for the remainder of their lives. It also offers counseling to their loved ones, according to their website.
Though there was no official count of how much supplies was donated, Jen Haight, program coordinator for the CSU-Pueblo Upward Bound, said the amount received was impressive, as nearly 12 large boxes were filled with donations.
About 50 TRiO participants joined the TRiO Day efforts at the hospice.
The participants painted the lower level of the Hospice, organized the donated books, cleaned the donated toys, moved furniture and organized the toy room, where children can play during their time in grief counseling.
Noelle Fiorenzi, a bereavement counselor at the hospice, said the effort was a positive and helpful experience for the hospice. She believed the donated items will help with the process of grief counseling for children, Fiorenzi said.
“The way we do counseling with the children is that they have to play,” Fiorenzi said. “They’re kids they can’t sit there and talk about their feelings the whole time.”
Ismana Carney, director of CSU-Pueblo Upward Bound, said she witnessed the giving nature and teamwork from both the CSU-Pueblo and PCC TRiO participants.
Carney saw the efforts as a good way to show participants the value of giving back to their community, she said.
“Even as a young person, their contribution in the community, and with organizations like hospice, is as valuable as any contribution by any citizen in Pueblo,” Carney said.
After their community service, participants were invited to a reception at Neighborworks. Neighborworks’ mission is to revitalize neighborhoods and assist families with home ownership, according to their website.
The TRiO participants were recognized for the day’s effort by the TRiO program directors and community members, which included President Ray Aguilera and Leroy Garcia, Pueblo City Council work session chairmen.
Andrea Casados, 16, a sophomore CSU-Pueblo Upward Bound member who attends Centennial High School, said the experience was both fun and rewarding. Casados was a member of the paint crew during the hospice efforts, she said.
“I feel really rejuvenated, like I made a difference today,” Casados said “People who are in hospice appreciate a lot more than people who aren’t.”
The reception also served as an awards ceremony for the TRiO programs, in order to recognize their most promising and inspiring participants. One student from each CSU-Pueblo and PCC TRiO program was awarded the Shining Star Award.
The Shining Star Awards recognizes both past and present TRiO participants who displayed leadership and initiative, and served as mentors or role models to other TRiO participants, Carney said.
The CSU-Pueblo Shining Star recipients this year were Trevor McKinney, of Upward Bound, and Andrew Fox, of Student Support Services.
The PCC winners were Caitlyn Cowen, of Upward Bound, and David Siguenza, of Student Support Services.
The Southern Colorado Equal Opportunity Center chose only one recipient, David Montano.