Williams heads CCCC TRIO programs

Apr. 04, 2013 @ 03:14 PM

SANFORD — TRIO programs helped get Dr. Gerri Brown Williams on track for success when she was a high school tenth grader. As the director of Central Carolina Community College’s TRIO programs since October, she wants to see the programs do the same thing for a new generation of disadvantaged or at-risk youth.   

As a low-income, African-American female growing up in rural northeastern North Carolina, Williams said she was exposed to teenage pregnancy, high school dropouts and drugs.

“The odds were against a young person in my situation ever graduating from high school and attending college,” she said. “but, during my tenth grade year of high school I was introduced to two TRIO programs: Upward Bound and the Education Talent Search Program. These gave me my first glimpse of higher education and the doors that could be opened to me, if I pursued postsecondary education. During my high school years, I would have never imagined that 20 years down the road I would have received my bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.”   

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education funds TRIO programs. They target low-income students who would be the first generation in their families to attend college. TRIO started in the 1960s with President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty. There were three programs then, so they were called TRIO, a name that has stuck even though the Department of Education now funds eight programs. CCCC offers two of them: Upward Bound Math and Science, in conjunction with Harnett County Schools, and Veterans Upward Bound, which serves veterans in Lee, Chatham, Harnett, Johnston and Wake counties.

“I would never be able to put a price tag on the value of my TRIO experiences,” Williams said. “Without any hesitation, I can honestly say that I am where I am today because of the academic and social support that I received from TRIO. Now, I want to give back to the same program that had such an impact on my continued educational success by serving as CCCC’s director of TRIO programs.”   

Before coming to the college, Williams had been director for the Office of TRIO Programs at UNC-Chapel Hill. In 2011, she received the N.C. TRIO Achiever Award presented by the North Carolina Council of Educational Opportunity Programs.

She grew up in Seaboard, Northampton County. After completing high school, she attended UNC-Chapel Hill and then transferred to the University of Texas-San Antonio. There, she received her Bachelor’s in Elementary Education and her Master’s in Adult and Higher Education. She received her Doctorate in Educational Leadership with a specialization in Higher Education from Lamar University in 2009.   

Williams now lives in Durham with Shawn, her husband of 15 years, and their 5-year-old daughter, Savannah. Shawn is the vice president of the Wealth Management Division at Mechanics and Farmers Bank.

For more information about CCCC’s TRIO programs, visit www.cccc.edu/trio/ or contact Williams at (919) 718-7463 or by email at gwilliams@cccc.edu.