Courntey Mitchell/Contributing Photographer TRIO Days’ keynote speaker Bert Gervais, ‘07, discusses TRIO’s impact on his experience at Binghamton University. TRIO’s programs help low-income, first-generation and disabled students pursue higher education.

Students and supporters of TRIO programs participated in the second annual national TRIO Days on Friday, Feb. 23 and Saturday, Feb. 24 to recognize the programs’ impacts at Binghamton University.

The University hosts six TRIO programs, which help low-income, first-generation and students with disabilities pursue higher education, overcoming barriers to higher education. The programs, funded under the Higher Education Act of 1965, include Upward Bound, Student Support Services (SSS), the McNair Scholars Program and the Educational Talent Search.

Saturday’s activities, held in the Mandela Room, featured several speakers who gave TED-style talks, discussing poverty and identity issues. The selected speakers came from BU, Le Moyne College, Cazenovia College and Cornell University.

David Best, the main organizer of the event and an SSS academic counselor, said TRIO focuses on encouraging academic success and helping students overcome personal struggles.

“This is all about motivating our students, because they aren’t alone in their struggles, and so getting someone who could speak on that was really important,” Best said. “We wanted our students to leave the event not feeling bad about their personal struggles, but to be uplifted.”

Keynote speaker Bert Gervais, ‘07, discussed surpassing obstacles in life in order to achieve goals. Gervais, who is an author and has been recognized by former President Barack Obama for his work, also reflected on how TRIO helped him during his time at BU. He said he aimed to show students they aren’t alone in their personal obstacles, and that there is a way to overcome them.

“The big idea is that every student has the ability to achieve their dreams, they just have to remove their lid, and their lids are these negative beliefs that a lot of times we think that we are the only ones who have them,” Gervais said. “But I think the point of the presentation was to make people feel less alone about this lid that they have, and that literally anything is possible when they remove it.”

Gervais shared his story with the audience to convey how he became successful despite the misfortunes in his life.

“When I got here, I was lost, and if wasn’t for programs like the one you’re part of today and the people who helped me out, I would’ve stayed lost,” Gervais said. “It didn’t happen overnight, but I slowly started to remove my lid.”

Gervais said BU students have a positive attitude toward success, which brings him back to speak at BU.

“For me, it was always a gem,” Gervais said. “I would hire anybody from BU. They’re really hardworking, ambitious students from all over with a huge chip on their shoulder like, ‘I’m going to show you how awesome I am,’ and I love being around that energy.”

Nick DeFazio, a junior majoring in business administration, said he appreciated Gervais’ perspective on working hard and overcoming one’s background.

“I came out to support TRIO and [its] programs because they are very influential in my life,” DeFazio said. “I thought [Gervais] was very motivational and taught us a lot about not limiting yourself with what you can’t do and removing those things to be successful.”