This story was submitted to us from Brittany U., Minnesota.

I am currently a junior at St. Olaf College majoring in Russian Area Studies and Political Science. I have a younger brother, Tyler, who is a Communications major at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa. The federal grant aid has helped me immensely since I’ve been at St. Olaf College. I’ve been fortunate to receive this grant two years in a row which has helped me and my family in many ways.

With my father laid-off multiple times during my high school years and laid-off over a year while I was a first year and sophomore in college, money was hard to come by. My family and I had to take out many loans and we wondered how we would be able to pay these debts back if our situation did not improve, or if I would have to take time off from college and get a job to help my family.

By receiving the federal grant aid, I was also able to study abroad in Russia for a month without taking out further loans. Being in Russia further sparked my interests about Russia and confirmed my decision to major in Russian Area Studies and continuing to study the Russian language. Without the grant aid I do not think I would have been able to take that opportunity, as my parents were reluctant in letting me travel because of our lack of funds.

The [TRIO Student Support Services] grant aid has helped me in many of the same ways I mentioned in the above paragraph because SSS provided additional grant funds and I was able to receive even more money to reduce or in some cases eliminate loans. SSS helps me stay in college every day, and has helped me right from the beginning with the Summer Bridge Program and will continue to help me through my last year and a half at St. Olaf.

The Summer Bridge Program allowed me to take a biology class for credit, and SSS paid for all of my meals, books and all of the activities we did. I really got to know the campus and understand what class and social life at St. Olaf would be like. Every semester I receive a gift card (for completing my incentive plan) for the bookstore that I can use to help defray the costs of books. I’ve also received gift cards to use at the bookstore for my GPA.

Just yesterday I called my mother and told her about the gift cards I received this semester and she was so relieved and grateful for SSS and asked me “what would we have ever done without SSS?” I did not have an answer. But SSS does not only help me stay in college because of its monetary benefits, I’m also still in college because of the guidance of the advisors.

I know that if I have a problem, whether it is big or small, I can always count on one of the advisors to help me through it. And even if I don’t have a problem, I can still chat with any of the advisors about my day or whatever I want to talk to them about knowing that they genuinely care about me and others in the SSS program.

Every time I walk into the SSS Office I feel encouraged and that I belong here, if I did not have these feelings there is no doubt that I would not be here. I often tell friends and neighbors that “I cannot imagine being anywhere else other than St. Olaf.”

And there is no doubt in my mind that SSS has made this the reason why I am still here.

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