TRIO Student of the Month: Mackenzie Hiller

I initially chose SC4 because they offered online classes, which I was eager to try because I was not very comfortable with the traditional classroom environment in high school. I loved being able to work independently at my own pace and create my own schedule. When I started at SC4 last summer, I was surprised to learn that college is so much more than just going to class — I realized that I can express myself. In college, and specifically at SC4, students can personalize their education to fit their interests. Though my main area of interest was the arts, I will be graduating this May with three honors degrees: associate of arts, associate of science and associate of general education.

I heard about the TRIO program when I had my first advising appointment after applying to SC4. What interested me was the priority registration and personalized advising. Throughout high school, I would have to constantly remind the staff who I was, so it was a very nice change to come to SC4 and have professors and advisors remember not just my name but many other things about me.

Some of my biggest challenges have come with being a first-generation college student. Neither of my parents went to college, so I sometimes felt lost. Another large barrier in my life has been my mental health — I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression when I was 14. It not only affects my educational journey but my everyday life as well.  I am grateful to all the people in the TRIO program who are patient with me and help me understand things that I don’t really know anything about. The support seminars and personalized advising have been a great help as I try to make college simpler when I can. College is a lot more than the classes — it’s also figuring out how to pay for your education, where to transfer, what program you want to be in and what career you want to have when you graduate. It is incredibly helpful to know there are people in TRIO there to help me.

TRIO has been such a great program for me I feel like it would be wrong not to recommend it to other students. Being a first-generation student is not easy, but having all the people in TRIO there to answer your questions makes things a lot easier. College can be daunting, but having the TRIO team there every step of the way is something I couldn’t do without. Amy Hengehold and Shawne Jowett have been such a great source of support in my education. I wouldn’t have been nearly as motivated without their help.

Applying to SC4 for me was a snap decision — I knew I wanted to go to college, but I wasn’t sure where to start. My future goals involve simply doing things that I want to do, whether it be a dream I’ve wanted to realize for years or just another snap decision. I would like to travel and see different parts of the world, especially Japan. I also hope to pursue a bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in film.

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