UVA Wise Spotlights Student for National TRIO Day

Lilly Meade
“TRIO taught me that it is okay to ask for help. I have been given so many opportunities because of Upward Bound and SSS,” Meade added.
Photo by Mark Robertson-Baker II

Lilly Meade of Coeburn, Va., has a jam-packed schedule most days. From burying her head in the books to conducting research and stepping behind the register at her part-time retail job, her calendar is almost always full. Meade, a junior at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise (UVA Wise), is not only a full-time student, but is a triple major in sociology, criminal justice and accounting with a minor in psychology. She has also earned two prestigious, research-focused internships. When asked how she does it all, Meade credits the UVA Wise’s TRIO programs for getting her where she is today.

In honor of National TRIO Day, a day set aside to commemorate the annual achievement of the Federal TRIO programs in communities across the country, UVA Wise is celebrating the 38th anniversary by highlighting first generation students like Meade, who participated in both TRIO programs: Upward Bound and Student Support Services (SSS). Both federally funded programs, Upward Bound provides fundamental support to participants in their preparation for college entrance. At UVA Wise, Upward Bound started in 1965, and is one of the oldest continuously run programs in the country. SSS, which celebrated 50 years of operation at UVA Wise this past fall, provides students with academic development opportunities, assistance with basic college requirements and motivation to successfully complete their postsecondary education.

Meade’s journey started in China, where she was adopted at just five years old from an orphanage. From then on, she made southwest Virginia her home. Her father Allen felt connected with her right away—and has been her support system ever since. 

Her family recognized her ambitious nature at an early age and gave her the push she needed to go out and overcome anything she set her mind to. Meade is no stranger to overcoming barriers and exceeding expectations. Meade was born with a condition called Treacher-Collins Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder. Because of this, she is hearing impaired and dons a Cochlear Baha hearing aid, a fact that Meade says is a simply just a part of her life, rather than an obstacle.

Going into high school, Meade hadn’t put much thought into college. 

“Growing up, I didn’t think low-income students in a single-parent household had a lot of success when it came to college. I was also very concerned that my disability would get in the way. Participating in Upward Bound changed my perspective for the better,” said Meade.

Through the Upward Bound program, Meade was able to learn invaluable skillsets, take dual-enrollment courses and obtain financial assistance. After graduating high school, Meade then went on to choose UVA Wise in part because of the time she spent on campus through the program, and because of the College’s commitment to affordability. Being a first-generation college student, she didn’t make these decisions lightly. 

“The support I have received from my family and from TRIO in high school led me down the right path. Being the first to go to college means a lot to me. It’s rewarding to be able to make my family proud and accomplish a lot, especially considering what I have had to overcome in my journey,” said Meade.

Once Meade entered college, she learned what a valuable resource Student Support Services would be in her journey. During her freshman year, she hit a bump in the road that SSS quickly helped her resolve. 

On top of a triple major and minor, Meade has participated in some very rigorous internships, including the Graduate Medical Consortium (GMEC) internship and the East Tennessee State University’s Ronald E. McNair Program, where she was one of four UVA Wise students accepted into the program. There she participated in a graduate school preparation program, which inspired Meade to want to later obtain her doctorate in criminal justice. After obtaining her degrees, Meade plans to enter into a federal law enforcement position with a focus on crimes against children. 

To go along with her career path, Meade is currently conducting research identifying resilience factors that shape career success following traumatic childhood abuse with her mentor for the McNair Program and Associate Professor of Sociology Christa Moore.

“Lilly is a remarkable student and role model for her peers. She’s driven and it shows in her ambitions, goals and accomplishments. I’m proud to be her mentor for the McNair Program as well as her sociology advisor and professor. Lilly has a spectacular career ahead of her!” said Moore. 

Whitney Wells, Meade’s SSS advisor and director of disability services, agrees with Moore and has nominated Lilly for several opportunities. 

“Lilly always drops by with a smile and isn’t afraid to ask questions. She always has a full workload and does so much more on top of that. I am proud of the way she is continuing to grow and explore her future,” said Wells. “Her background has never acted as a barrier for her. Sure, days grow long, and work can become rough, but she always persists. I have never doubted her success!”

This academic year, Meade received the Julia R. Heise Scholarship, named in honor of former director of TRIO Upward Bound and Student Support Services. Meade is also a Rapha Foundation Bicentennial Scholar. 

When thinking of her numerous support systems, Meade credits both her dad, Allen, and cousin, Holly, for shaping her into who she is today. She also cites the entire TRIO support staff at UVA Wise, along with Yenli Yeh, professor of criminal justice who has always encouraged her to keep trying.