University director of TRiO Services receives regional recognition

Rita Escher awarded the Service Award at the 2013 Western Association of Educational Opportunity Personnel Conference

After 17 years of working with low income and first generation students at the University of Nevada, Reno, Rita Escher's peers have recognized the time, effort and dedication she has given to these students. Escher was awarded the 2013 Service Award at the Western Association of Educational Opportunity Personnel  Conference last month.

"I am honored to be recognized by my colleagues as I have such great respect for those who work as TRiO professionals," said Escher, director of academic and opportunity support programs. "It was especially wonderful to receive this recognition in Hawaii since I started my TRiO career in the Pacific Island nation of the Republic of the Marshall Islands more than 20 years ago."

Currently, Escher oversees the University's TRiO programs, which provides qualified undergraduates with the academic assistance and support necessary to successfully complete a baccalaureate degree. These programs include three Upward Bound programs, the TRiO Scholars Program and the McNair Scholars Program as well as the Ambassador Program for GEAR UP.

Escher is not alone is supporting low-income, first-generation students to help overcome the cultural, academic, class and social barriers to success in higher education. Her colleagues are a great support system and could not be more proud.

"All of the TRiO staff is extremely proud of her," said Daniel Valley, assistant director. "This award is well deserved."

TRiO programs at the University of Nevada, Reno have a high rate of success. On average, more than 90 percent of Upward Bound participants graduate from high school and go on to college. In addition, 93 percent of TRiO Scholars are retained at the University from one year to the next and more than 87 percent of McNair Scholars go on to graduate school. Escher credits the high performance and dedication of her staff with creating a positive climate for student success.

The Western Association of Educational Opportunity Personnel is one of 10 regional associations dedicated to furthering educational opportunities for low-income, first-generation and disabled students. The organization is comprised of professionals from Nevada, Arizona, California, Hawaii and the Pacific Islands of Micronesia, Guam, and American Samoa. Most members work as directors, counselors, advisors and support staff for one of the federal TRiO programs. All are united in the belief that family income and parental level of education should not be a deterrent to access to and success in higher education.

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