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NEIU Independent

Northeastern Illinois University's student-run newspaper

NEIU Independent

Northeastern Illinois University's student-run newspaper

NEIU Independent

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ACCESS and ACHIEVE TRIO Students In the Washington D.C.

Alejandro Toro
Different locations visited throughout the TRIO trip in Washington D.C


Disclaimer: The writer was an attendee of this trip.


Over 30 TRIO staff and students from TRIO’s ACCESS and ACHIEVE student support programs embarked on a trip to Washington, D.C, for a four-day excursion of cultural and academic exploration. 

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TRIO is a federally funded program within NEIU that helps motivated students to earn a college degree. The trip to the heart of the nation’s capital was all expenses paid thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Throughout the trip, participants had representatives from Zion Leadership Group, who served as chaperones, guides, and mentors. 


Graduate Schools


One of the main purposes of the trip was for students to learn about and visit graduate schools. One of those graduate schools was American University. Upon entering the administrative complex, participants were greeted by Matthew Forrester-Smith, an employee from the Office of Admissions and Recruitment, where he gave a presentation on graduate school guidelines, as well as tips and tricks for applying. Aleah, a recent graduate of American University’s School of International Service, also shared her perspective on graduate school. She also shared what students need to be proficient in to succeed, which included study skills, time management and balancing a work and social life.

Students and chaperones participated in a tour of Howard University to see technology and innovation at work. The institution has a fleet of autonomous delivery robots on wheels to deliver food, supplies, and other goods. A student who wishes to remain anonymous was disappointed that Howard University did not engage NEIU students more, unlike American University, but the student explains, “I can tell the staff at Howard is dedicated based on how lively the campus was.”

At George Washington University, participants were escorted to the auditorium in the student union building. There, two undergraduate students hosted a Q&A session about campus life, i.e., the unique museums, cultural excursions, organizations, and other activities within the D.C. experience while learning to balance all responsibilities while in college.

Students later attended a global leadership symposium focusing on self-branding and leadership skills. Students participated in an exercise where they interviewed fellow students individually for 30 seconds. The goal was to gain experience in making a good first impression. Then, after engaging, students wrote down on a note card taped to their partner’s back one attribute they obtained from the conversation.

Many students were shocked at how others view them and their personalities. Another anonymous student was genuinely surprised when a peer wrote that they are a “ brave” individual. They explained, “This interactive exercise helped me to see things in myself I did not see there already.”

The symposium concluded with two former graduate students describing their experiences with life and graduate school. Both women now have professional positions in Washington, D.C. One works as an administrator for the Department of Veterans Affairs, while the other is a managing partner for the International Monetary Fund (IMF).  


Cultural things in Washington D.C


The group traveled around the city, and managed to find a wealth of information from different aspects of the city.

 The group went down to Massachusetts Avenue and the U.S. Naval Observatory (USNO), where the private residence of former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were. In addition, the homes of wealthy people such as Benjamin Guggenheim, who perished in the Titanic, and St. Matthew’s Cathedral, where President Kennedy’s funeral took place.

One of the museums the members attended was the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, where there were culturally and historically significant artifacts.  including a piece of the Berlin Wall, a replica of the USS Philadelphia, inaugural dresses worn by the First Ladies of the United States, a piece from the World Trade Center towers recovered from 9/11, and an exhibit of the Latino History of the United States within the National Museum of the American Latino.

Participants also toured the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture. The museum consists of four levels, each level with a different aspect of Black culture. The famous ‘time machine’ elevator was out of service, so visitors took the stairs down to the lowest level. The participants’ tour began with the history of slavery and the global slave trade in the world. Students learned more in-depth about segregation and its influence on the civil rights movement. A mockup of a train from that era depicted in detail the struggles African-Americans faced and the inequalities of washroom and dining facilities, separate drinking fountains, and places to sit while traveling.  

Exhibits of prominent figures of the civil rights movement included Dr. Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Ida B. Wells. A mockup of the lunch counter where sit-in occurred during the time of Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King was featured.  

The museum tour concluded on the top level with artifacts and memorabilia, and entertainment media such as music and film. On display were concert tour dance suits from famous recording artists such as Michael Jackson, Earth, Wind and Fire, and Motown musicians. Several students danced to the rhythm and beats within the exhibition from these legendary recording artists.

The trip was not complete without a stop to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, where the historic White House is located. During the time the group was there, the president was not in the Oval Office since no Marine guard was present outside the door, according to the tour guide, Mr. William.

While the group posed for a group photo, there was a stir in the capital. A lady danced in protest on the street and held a sign that read “TRUMP ARRESTED! TRUMP INDICTED!” Patriotic music played from loudspeakers attached to her cart. Another protester assembled by Lafayette Square with Black Lives Matter signs and literature attached to his tent. Several students commented on how we are participating in the history of the United States now as it is happening. “A pretty cool perspective,” according to one student.  

There were several locations the group went for lunch during the trip, including Oohh’s & Aahh’s, a restaurant with soul food with an authentic Southern and home-cooked taste. 

World-famous Ben’s Chili Bowl, where several famous people have eaten there from D.C. and beyond in its 65 years, according to photos plastered throughout the establishment. Notable people include President Obama, Secretary Clinton, singer Bruno Mars, and comedian Dave Chappelle. As the staff served our food, our waiter and local philosopher Mr. Keith described to students the things one can do in life to be a success, “When you show your value, you become the value.”

After four days in D.C., students and advisors flew back to Chicago at 6 a.m. On the plane, a student, Destiny, commented, “I enjoyed learning about our country’s history and touring the Smithsonian! The guide was very informative and hands-on.”

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