Marc Heron
On the eve of the official commencement ceremonies at Oregon Tech, students from the university’s TRiO Student Support Services - Tech Opportunities Program (TOP) along with their families, friends, faculty members, staff members, and mentors gathered to honor the success of the 2017 TOP graduates. Their perseverance, dedication and often non-traditional paths that led them to graduation were celebrated during the event.

TRiO Student Support Services provides support for non-traditional students such as first generation students, students from low-income families or students with disabilities. The program receives funding through a competitive federal grant process, with funds awarded to colleges and universities to provide opportunities for academic development, to assist students with basic college requirements, and to motivate students toward the successful completion of their post-secondary degree.

After the celebratory dinner, TOP Coordinator Angela Archer, a former graduate from the program herself, invited the 2017 TOP graduates to share reflections on their personal journeys through college. One of the students, Amber Duguay, who finished her Bachelor of Science in Biology-Health Sciences shared her struggles. She related the challenges of juggling multiple roles of being a mother, a wife and a veteran. Amber thanked her advisors and faculty for encouraging her to stay focused on her goals and to finish her degree.

Tessaundra Sidden
Another student, Tessaundra Sidden, worked multiple jobs on campus while completing her Bachelor of Science in Biology-Health Sciences. Tessaundra spoke about the emotional and academic support she received from her faculty mentors, advisors, and family members during difficult times while in school. A similar sentiment was shared by another student, Marc Heron, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Management with emphasis on Marketing. Being first in his family to pursue a college degree, juggling sports, and 21 credits per term in his senior year, Marc appreciated the personalized and genuine emotional support he received from his TOP advisors. They helped him believe in himself and continue on his path to graduation.

Throughout the course of the evening, each TOP graduate was presented with a TOP university stole and a TOP challenge coin. While the stoles represent a student's personal and academic development, the coins symbolize all of the challenges that were faced and overcome by the graduates. This year, each TOP graduate received two TOP challenge coins: one to keep for themselves to help them remember their hard work and tenacity, and the other to give to a person whom they deem instrumental in helping them succeed.

During the closing remarks, Angela Archer encouraged the graduates by saying, “...take the best of Oregon Tech into your future, improve it, the way you improved this campus, and the way you improved TOP. Come back to report, come back to share, come back to inspire the next generation.” Archer also thanked the campus community for its continued support for the TOP program and the TOP students.

The goal of TOP is to increase the college retention and graduation rates of its participants. TOP services include tutoring, mentoring, networking with other students, college success classes, academic advising, limited scholarship funding, workshops and cultural trips. For more information about TOP visit