TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) Scholars Program

Welcome to the TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) Scholars Program at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania. President Lyndon B. Johnson initiated the TRIO programs in 1965 to promote access to and graduation from four-year institutions of higher education. College graduates increase not only their own economic power, but also their families’ and the nation’s. Following from this principle, the TRIO SSS Scholars Program’s primary objective is to promote the academic success of participants, leading to higher rates of good academic standing (2.0 grade point average or higher), retention (staying in college), and graduation.

TRIO SSS at Lock Haven University is funded by the US Department of Education to serve 230 students who meet federal eligibility guidelines. Students who are selected as TRIO SSS Scholars receive assistance with all aspects of their college transition and gain valuable access to university skills as well as resources that promote success. TRIO SSS Scholars Program faculty and staff dedicate themselves to teaching, consulting, mentoring, and advising to address students’ needs.

LHU TRIO SSS at a Glance


TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) is a federally funded TRIO program serving first-generation college students and students who meet other eligibility guidelines from freshman year through graduation.

The goals of the TRIO SSS Scholars program are to boost students’ grade point averages and rates of remaining in college until graduation.


Qualifications for TRIO Student Support Services are regulated by the federal government. To be eligible, students must permanently reside in the United States and meet at least ONE of the following criteria:

  • First-generation college student (neither parent or guardian received a bachelor’s degree)
  • Limited income, according to federal guidelines
  • Documented disability

Students can also have academic or personal need. Please see Program Eligibility for full guidelines, or contact Dr. Rachel Epstein at if you are uncertain whether or not you qualify.


Upon acceptance to LHU, students can apply for the TRIO SSS program. After the application has been submitted and reviewed, personnel will be in contact regarding its status. We welcome meeting with prospective students during LHU Summer Orientations as well as Open Houses and Accepted Students Days.

TRIO SSS Application


Students who are selected for the TRIO SSS program gain valuable access to university skills. The transition to higher education is often difficult and confusing; program offerings provide participants with additional resources that promote success. TRIO SSS faculty and staff serve as the core of the program, teaching, consulting, and advising to address student needs

TRIO SSS is funded by a grant from the United States Department of Education in the amount of $338,971 to give 230 eligible LHU students additional resources for success in higher education from enrollment through graduation. The program is supported by additional funding and services from Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania.

Program Eligibility

To be eligible for the Student Support Services (SSS) Scholars Program, students must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • First-generation college student (neither parent or guardian received a bachelor's degree from a 4-year institution) AND limited income according to the federal guidelines below
  • First-generation college student only; or
  • Documented disability (learning, psychological, or physical as supported by documentation submitted to the Disability Services Office). Two-thirds of LHU’s SSS program must include first-generation college students who meet federal income guidelines. One-third of the total SSS population of students with documented disabilities must also qualify as low-income.

Important information for students with disabilities can be found at the U.S. Department of Education site

Academic need is also considered, such as lack of academic preparedness, time away from academics, lack of personal support, or lack of information, among other criteria.

Size of Family Unit 48 Contiguous States, D.C., and Outlying Jurisdictions Alaska Hawaii
1 $19,140 $23,925 $22,020
2 $25,860 $32,325 $29,745
3 $32,580 $40,725 $37,470
4 $39,300 $49,125 $45,195
5 $46,020 $57,525 $52,920
6 $52,740 $65,925 $60,645
7 $59,460 $74,325 $68,370
8 $66,180 $82,725 $76,095

For family units with more than eight members, add the following amount for each additional family member: $6,720 for the 48 contiguous states, the District of Columbia and outlying jurisdictions; $8,400 for Alaska; and $7,725 for Hawaii.

The term "low-income individual" means an individual whose family's taxable income for the preceding year did not exceed 150 percent of the poverty level amount.

The figures shown under family income represent amounts equal to 150 percent of the family income levels established by the Census Bureau for determining poverty status. The 2020 poverty guidelines are in effect as of January 15, 2020. Federal Register notice was published January 17, 2020

Academic Year

To assist all students—first-years through seniors—with meeting the goals of good academic standing and graduation within four to six years, a variety of success workshops and other resources are offered each semester. Workshop topics include study strategies, time management, learning styles, career planning, personal development, study abroad, and community service. In addition, the Director and faculty Writing Specialist serve as supplemental advisers for all students and make referrals to campus resources. The Writing Specialist also works individually with students on writing skills and study strategies, and offers diverse workshops on essay writing, research skills, academic reading, e-mail etiquette, scholarship and graduate school applications, and cover letters and resumes.

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While the university operates in a mostly remote mode, TRIO SSS is offering a full slate of virtual events, as well as coaching and mentoring, via the Zoom platform.

See our current event calendar here:

LHU TRIO SSS 2020-21 Event Calendar

Spring 2021 Event Calendar (PDF)

Students new to LHU are encouraged to participate in the First Year Forward (FYF) first-year experience program, which provides a structure of workshop offerings, social opportunities, membership in a Learning Community, Peer Mentors, Peer Tutors, and faculty assistance in navigating the transition to college. Transfer students and nontraditional students are welcomed into First Year Forward along with first-time freshmen.

For Fall 2020 information on First Year Forward, refer to this resource: First Year Forward Fall 2020

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A range of campus resources supplement TRIO SSS services to support academic, career, financial, social, and personal needs. TRIO SSS personnel strongly encourage students to take advantage of Tutorial Services, Library Services, Disability Services, the Center for Career and Professional Development, the Center for Global Engagement, the HOPE Center, Counseling Services, Health Services, the Global MountainServe Center for Community Service, and the Offices of Financial Aid, Student Accounts, the Registrar, and Student Activities. We collaborate with personnel in all these areas and make referrals when appropriate.

Best Foot Forward (BFF) Summer Bridge Program

This five-day bridge program—offered at no cost to participants—welcomes and orients freshmen directly before the fall semester begins, setting the stage for first-year success. TRIO SSS faculty and staff, along with campus and community leaders, facilitate a variety of activities to help students with the challenging transition to college academically, technologically, financially, socially, culturally, and personally. The BFF Program is traditionally held on campus. In August 2020, a temporary transition was made to a virtual format in order to ensure continuity of resources.

See a sample on-campus schedule from 2019

The schedule from the abridged 2020 virtual BFF Program can be found here.

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Comprehensive Coaching

Request an Appointment

Program Director Dr. Rachel Epstein meets individually with students to assess and assist with academic, financial, professional, and personal aspects of college. Each TRIO SSS Scholar should meet at least once a semester with Dr. Epstein, addressing the academic plan as well as questions about time management, study strategies, financial aid, career goals, and/or personal wellness. Dr. Epstein also facilitates workshops on the nuts and bolts of college learning and on topics of particular interest to first-generation students. She is available to coach students at every step of the way from enrollment through graduation. SSS Scholars are encouraged to contact her with concerns, questions, or ideas at any point.

Dr. Rachel Epstein
Assistant Professor, Director
TRIO Student Support Services
Department of Social Work and Counseling
401 N. Fairview St., 126 Ulmer Hall
Lock Haven University, Lock Haven, PA 17745
(570) 484-2324

Academic Support

Request an Appointment

Writing Specialist Dr. Carl B. Sell assists TRIO SSS scholars with writing at every step of the process, from brainstorming ideas to revising drafts. Dr. Sell can help with research papers, lab reports, discussion posts, resumes, cover letters, scholarship essays, graduate school applications, creative writing coursework, and whatever else might come up between coursework and other college-related activities. He can also assist with general study practices, critical reading skills, research methods, and familiarization with the expanding range of technology and applications used by in classes. Dr. Sell is available to meet with students in his office, Ulmer 116A; by Zoom; and via the new TRIO SSS Discord server. All TRIO SSS students are encouraged to meet with Dr. Sell for help with prewriting, drafting, revising, studying, or using Zoom and D2L. Feel free to make an appointment online with the button above or by email at

Dr. Sell also holds various workshops for TRIO SSS scholars that cover critical reading, online learning success, job application documents, and the writing process. Let him know if you have an idea for a workshop, as Dr. Sell is always eager to talk with students!

Finally, the Writing Specialist mentors the student editors of the TRIO SSS Newsletter, which is published at the end of each semester. The editor position is a wonderful opportunity for students who love writing, and who would like to gain experience in editing, publishing, interviewing, design and layout, communications, and public relations. Please email Dr. Sell if you are interested!

Writing Specialist
Dr. Carl B. Sell
Assistant Professor, Writing Specialist
TRIO Student Support Services
Department of Social Work and Counseling
401 N. Fairview St., 116A Ulmer Hall
Lock Haven University, Lock Haven, PA 17745
(570) 484-2870

Financial Literacy

Each semester, TRIO SSS provides financial literacy workshops to help students learn more about money management, credit, spending patterns, interest, budgeting, and identity protection. Programming is also offered to familiarize students with educational finance, such as FAFSA completion, state grants, scholarship applications, financial aid packages, the link between satisfactory academic progress and financial aid, and choices for repayment of loans. Students are assisted one-on-one with resolving student bill issues, and they receive referrals to the Offices of Financial Aid and Student Accounts. Altogether, TRIO SSS supports students toward the goal of reduced loan debt.

Grant Aid

First- and second-year students who receive Pell Grant awards, earn at least a 2.5 grade point average, and actively participate in the TRIO SSS Program may apply for grant aid. These scholarships are applied directly to the student’s financial aid package. Upper division students with dire financial need and good academic standing, with a 2.5 or higher GPA, can also apply for grant aid. Applications become available each fall semester as the holiday break approaches. Contact Dr. Rachel Epstein at with questions.

Peer Mentor Program

TRIO SSS Peer Mentors assist SSS Scholars with the transition to LHU as well as a range of possible challenges from enrollment through graduation. The Peer Mentors, successful upper-division SSS Scholars selected through a rigorous application process, interact with their peers individually and in small groups, providing support. Peer Mentors show students how to connect with other students, faculty, and staff, as well as engage in activities and take advantage of services across campus and in the Lock Haven community.

TRIO SSS Scholars beginning their first year at LHU are matched with two Peer Mentors who reach out regularly to offer opportunities for discussion of challenges, connection to resources, and participation in social activities. This introduction to the “TRIO Family” often proves crucial to first-year and transfer students’ academic confidence and sense of belonging at LHU.

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Peer Mentor Positions

The Peer Mentors are SSS Scholars who serve as role models and provide a comfortable environment in which students can work on obstacles to achieving success. Both individually and in small groups, Peer Mentors offer support in academic, social, and personal areas. Each spring, eligible SSS Scholars have the opportunity to apply for one of the available Peer Mentor positions available for the following academic year. The requirements are:

  • 2.5 or higher grade point average
  • Standing of second-semester freshman or higher
  • Evidence of active participation in the TRIO SSS Program
  • Submission of a complete application with two references and a resume
  • Successful participation in two group process interviews and one individual interview
  • Ability to arrive one week before the fall semester begins
  • Confidence in facilitating small groups
  • Interest in providing year-long guidance and activities for peers
    Once selected, Peer Mentors in the SSS Scholars Program are expected to:
  • Maintain perfect attendance and punctuality at training sessions, meetings with mentees, and any assigned activities, such as workshops and study halls.
  • Act responsibly at all times as a designated role model peers look to for advice (i.e., making responsible choices academically, socially, and personally).
  • Develop programs that assist peers with college life, learning, and recreation.
  • Inform the director of any student issues or need for assistance.
  • Participate actively in the TRIO SSS Program’s cultural trips, workshops, banquets, etc.
  • Communicate continually with mentees throughout the year, including the initial individual meeting, subsequent coaching, and group programs.
  • Regularly complete and submit green Contact Reports and Payroll Time Sheets to the Program Coordinator.
  • Complete and keep clearances up to date.
  • Sign and honor the Confidentiality and Family Education Rights & Privacy Act agreements.

For more information, please contact Dr. Rachel Epstein at

Career Pathways

The TRIO SSS NextGen Working Professionals Program, facilitated by Program Coordinator Marianne Guinter, matches students with professional mentors in the national TRIO alumni network, the LHU alumni network, and the Lock Haven community. Students are guided through the steps of conducting informational interviews and cultivating professional networking relationships. The SSS NextGen Working Professionals Program also includes a job shadowing component, in which students gain exposure to industries that match their career interests. Finally, working in conjunction with the Center for Career and Professional Development, Ms. Guinter facilitates opportunities for internships, drawing on alumni networks and community connections. These career readiness initiatives complement students’ academic plans, motivating them to follow through with coursework and approach graduation with confidence.

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In addition, TRIO SSS Scholars enroll in the Haven EDGE Program, offered by the Center for Career and Professional Development. This set of modules guides students to “ENGAGE, DISCERN, GAIN, and EMPLOY the knowledge, skills, and attitude necessary to make decisions and pursue the skills development needed.” The program consists of students applying and articulating the eight career readiness competencies defined by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Goals for freshmen and sophomores include concentration on major and career exploration, self-evaluation, and awareness of career options and resources. Juniors and seniors explore topics such as internships, job searching, and networking to prepare for life after
 graduation. More information can be found on the Center for Career and Professional Development webpage.

NextGen Professional Mentoring Program

TRIO SSS NextGen Working Professionals Mentor Program

As part of the 2020-25 grant cycle, the LHU TRIO SSS program has initiated the NextGen Working Professionals Program, providing students with the opportunity to engage and learn from experienced professionals within their desired field in order to better prepare for a future career. 

How the Program Works

The first step in becoming a mentor is to complete the Mentor Application. Once the application is received, the Grant Program Coordinator will reach out about the next steps, which include completing the process outlined in the Lock Haven University Volunteer Policy.  Once the volunteer’s application is approved by the University, the volunteer will be placed in the mentor pool and will be contacted about matching with a student mentee.  

Note:  Because this is a new program and there is a great need for mentors, we are hoping that as volunteers are approved, we can match students with a mentor during the Spring 2021 semester, through Summer 2021.  In Fall 2021, we will begin the regular cycle of pairing mentors at the start of each academic year.       

At the beginning of the fall semester, mentors will be asked to confirm their availability for the upcoming academic year.  Once the mentor is matched with a student, the pair will be invited to a kick-off meeting where students and mentors will be introduced.  After the first meeting, the mentor and student will coordinate their meetings based on mutual availability.  The expectation is for the mentor and student to meet at least once a month for the duration of the academic year, September through May.  

Mentor Eligibility & Requirements

  • At least three years of professional experience beyond an undergraduate degree.
  • Ability to mentor one or two students during the academic year (September to May).
  • Comply with the Lock Haven University Volunteer Policy.
  • Accessibility and engagement for the duration of the mentoring relationship; willingness to share personal and professional experience and insights and to assist the mentee(s) in networking.
  • Commitment to connecting with the student via phone or video conferencing (Zoom, Skype, FaceTime) at least once per month during the academic year.    
  • Willingness to discuss with the mentee(s) a variety of topics related to professional development.  Topics may include: professional experiences, industry trends and best practices, professional advice relevant to the student's career interests and goals, mock interviews, communication skills, job/internship search strategies, professional networking, informational interviews, and job shadowing.
  • Completion of a survey to provide feedback so we can continuously improve the program and provide the best experiences for the student and the mentor.  
Social and Cultural Events

Active SSS Scholars have the opportunity to participate in social and cultural activities throughout the year. Past cultural destinations include New York City, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. Students have also traveled to see dance and musical performances at Pennsylvania State University and the Williamsport Community Arts Center. Locally, there are frequent social and cultural activities, including game nights, craft nights, literary readings, and theater performances.

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In the remote learning environment, a full slate of social and cultural programming is offered via the Zoom platform.

Events vary by semester, so participants should monitor the Event Calendar and check their email for current opportunities.


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Who We Are

The TRIO SSS Team consists of the Program Director, the Writing Specialist, the Program Coordinator, and a cohort of twelve Peer Mentors. These personnel collaborate to offer a network of support to SSS Scholars.

We encourage you to contact us at any point with questions, concerns, or ideas


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Dr. Rachel Epstein began teaching at the college level in 2006, and since then she has worked closely with students inside and outside the classroom at several institutions. Before coming to LHU in 2017 as the TRIO SSS Writing Specialist, she taught Asian religions and philosophy, Japanese language and literature, and English composition in the Philadelphia area. She also worked for two years with People & Stories/Gente y Cuentos, a bilingual literature access nonprofit, and she has been involved in a number of community literacy initiatives. Dr. Epstein brings to bear her varied experience when meeting with and developing programming for students who arrive at LHU with diverse interests and aims. Her objective is to tailor TRIO SSS support to individual student profiles while upholding the program mission of educational equity. Outside of work, she loves dance, music, and bike-riding, and she keeps up a practice of literary translation.

Dr. Epstein has a Ph.D. in Japanese Literature from the University of Pennsylvania, an M.F.A. in Poetry from Washington University, and a B.A. in English from Oberlin College.

Dr. Rachel Epstein
Assistant Professor
TRIO Student Support Services
Department of Social Work and Counseling
401 N. Fairview St., 126 Ulmer Hall
Lock Haven University, Lock Haven, PA  17745
(570) 484-2324


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Dr. Carl B. Sell has a wide scope of interests, spanning from medieval Europe to contemporary comic books and role-playing games. He is most interested in the intersections between literary works and compositional patterns and trends, particularly as such can be traced through the development and adaptations of the legends of King Arthur and Robin Hood. Dr. Sell has various publications on the role of comic books in the extension of literary and compositional history, and he is more than happy to talk about how and why that matters for students in writing and literature courses—after all, writing is a constantly evolving field!

Aside from his position at Lock Haven University, Dr. Sell has worked in a variety of university and community college settings, including the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences Writing Center, Oklahoma Panhandle State University, Penn State University’s Altoona College, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania Highlands Community College.

Dr. Sell holds a Ph.D. in English Literature and Criticism from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where he also attained an M.A. in English Literature, and has his B.A. in English (with a minor in History) from Penn State University’s Altoona College.

Dr. Carl B. Sell
Assistant Professor
TRIO Student Support Services
Department of Social Work and Counseling
401 N. Fairview St., 116A Ulmer Hall
Lock Haven University, Lock Haven, PA  17745
(570) 484-2870


Marianne Image

Marianne Guinter joined LHU TRIO SSS as Administrative Assistant in 2018, working “behind the scenes” to help coordinate TRIO events and trips, gather and compile data for annual grant reporting, and run a tight administrative ship. In her current position as Program Coordinator, she is expanding her role to step out from “behind the scenes” and work with students through the NextGen Professionals Program, which includes a career mentoring component. She brings to LHU eleven years of experience as an HR professional.
Ms. Guinter was a first-generation college student, receiving an A.S. in Legal Studies from Central Pennsylvania Business College and a B.S. in Paralegal/Legal Assistant Studies from Pennsylvania College of Technology. She lives in the Jersey Shore area with her husband, her two sons, and a rescue pitbull named Lilly. Her hobbies are reading, crafting, and baking for her family.

Marianne Guinter
TRIO Student Support Services
Department of Social Work and Counseling
401 N. Fairview St., 118 Ulmer Hall
Lock Haven University, Lock Haven, PA  17745
(570) 484-2409

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Student Support Services


Administrative assistant

Ms. Marianne Guinter
Program Coordinator

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(570) 484-2027

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