Celebrating Horizons Student Support Services and the impact of the TRIO program at Purdue 

Feb. 23, 2023


Pictured: Horizons student Jeshua Aponte (left) poses for a photo with other students in the program (photo provided).

National TRIO Day—celebrated each year on the fourth Saturday in February—is meant to focus the nation’s attention on the needs of disadvantaged college students and the talent that could be wasted if universities don’t invest in their success.

Under the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed off on the creation of three federal programs—Upward Bound, Talent Search, and Student Support Services. Together, these would be coined “TRIO.” 

Almost 60 years later, a lot has changed about TRIO, including its expansion from three programs to nine. However, the vision remains the same: provide students who are low-income, first-generation, or living with disabilities the resources and support they need to progress through the academic pipeline from middle school to college. 

Since 1978, Horizons Student Support Services has been the hub for all things TRIO at Purdue. Each year, this program office helps up to 340 students pursue their bachelor's degree through the development of academic, social, and personal skills with services such as tutoring, mentoring, career development, academic support, cultural enrichment, and access to global experiences.

Below are a few stories of Boilermakers impacted by Horizons. 


Pictured: Horizons student Jeshua Aponte (left) poses for a photo with others affiliated with the program (photo provided).

Jeshua Aponte, Horizons Student

Being a freshman can be a monumental task, and for Jeshua Aponte, it has been a year of many firsts. Originally from Puerto Rico, Aponte didn’t know much about the programs and resources available to him when he stepped onto Purdue’s campus.

“I remember getting an email in September about Horizons,” he said. “I went to the office the next day, and there was so much excitement in such a small room. It was incredible.” 

Since that first day, Aponte has had numerous opportunities he couldn’t have imagined before joining Horizons.

“I carved my first pumpkin with Horizons,” he laughs. “I had never carved a pumpkin before. I also had my first experience of going to a corn maze and trying an apple cider slushy. Trust me, it tastes a lot better than it sounds.” 

Horizons also gave Aponte the opportunity to receive tutoring, be mentored by a faculty mentor, get academic and career counseling, navigate financial aid, and much more. 

In fact, Aponte hopes to serve in the Horizons Peer Mentor Program next year as a way to give back to a community that’s already given him so much.

“I want to help people who arrive at Purdue to have a smooth transition,” he shares. “I want them to know all the nooks and crannies that took me more than a semester to figure out.” 

When asked what he’s most thankful for in the Horizons program, Aponte shares, “I could not be more thankful for the students and staff in Horizons. They have helped me form a core group of friends and a solid support system. I’m really excited to see what the future holds, including our study abroad trip to Costa Rica this summer.”


Pictured: Horizons student Jeshua Aponte (left) poses for a photo with his faculty mentor (photo provided).

Zawwad Jamee, Horizons Tutor

For Zawwad Jamee, Horizons came into his life on what can only be described as a random whim. Jamee was looking for a tutoring job, something he had done in high school. That’s when he came across a flyer for Horizons.

“When I discovered that Horizons helps first-generation and low-income students, I felt a connection. As an immigrant, I know how important resources like this can be.”

While tutoring, Jamee had the opportunity to interact one-on-one with many students, building relationships and supporting them inside and outside of the classroom.

“A piece of advice my mother gave me that I passed on to my students is that repetition is the mother of retention,” he shares. During tutoring sessions, Jamee would say certain phrases over and over again. Whether it was an affirmation that the student could accomplish a difficult task or a reminder that there was an entire community behind them during college’s toughest moments, Jamee could see the difference he was making.

“Horizons is one of the few places I’ve been a part of where everyone is happy at the end of the day. The staff and tutors feel fulfilled because we are able to change students’ lives, and students feel like they have a place where they will always belong.” 


Pictured: Zawwad Jamee, Horizons tutor (photo provided).

Benito Martinez, Horizons Alumnus

Benito Martinez has experienced Horizons through two lenses: one as a student and one as a tutor.

In 2009, Martinez came to Purdue as a freshman and the first person in his family to go to college. “My family was supportive, but it was nice to have a community on campus that understood what I was going through,” he remembers.

For his entire undergraduate career, Martinez sought out tutoring and other services from Horizons Student Support Services. “I had a tutor for a couple of years. Because I was taking advanced math classes, it was great to have someone to bounce ideas off of,” he says. “It was cool to have someone who already experienced the class and could guide me along the way.” 

Martinez was also seen regularly around the Horizons office, which still acts as a shared space for students to connect and study. “Having a place that you know is comfortable and welcoming where you can just have lunch or chat with others who get you is invaluable.”

Another opportunity Martinez received as a first-generation student entering higher education was a faculty mentor.

“My Horizons faculty mentor was actually the department head in my major,” Martinez recalls. “To have someone who was full-fledged faculty taking time out of their schedule to work with me was really awesome.”

When Martinez decided to pursue his graduate degree in math education at Purdue, he returned to Horizons to be a tutor for the next class of undergraduates. “My tutoring experience helped me understand how different students struggle in different classes,” he shares. “It set me apart in my career and was formative in my journey post-graduation.”

Today, Martinez serves as the Assistant Director of Diversity and Retention in the Purdue Polytechnic Institute.


Anne Lucietto (PhD), Horizons Faculty Mentor

Anne Lucietto, an associate professor in the School of Engineering Technology, serves as a knowledgeable guide, caring facilitator, experienced role model—and most importantly—trusted ally for numerous students across campus, including Horizons participants. 

“My mother was a first-generation student, so I understand where these students are coming from,” Lucietto shares. “What I try to do is to establish a relationship where they feel comfortable asking or sharing whatever they want.” 

After working in the industry for almost 30 years, Lucietto has channeled her passion for mentorship into her role as a Horizons faculty mentor, guiding the students she takes under her wing. 

“I believe in constant contact for true mentoring,” she says. “It’s really fun because one moment we are talking about their thesis or career aspirations, and then we’re talking about the pumpkins they carved last week.” 

Lucietto likes the way Horizons keeps her grounded and encourages other faculty to consider mentoring students. “You likely don’t realize how many students are first-generation at Purdue. There’s so much we can do to teach and support them as they navigate college.”

Read more: Students reflect on Horizons experiences

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Sarah Anderson

Communications Assistant for Student Success Programs, ande1206@purdue.edu 

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