USC Upstate Welcomes New Director of Student Support Services

August 13, 2012 at 11:56 am

reprinted from

GREENVILLE, SC – August 6, 2012 – “You are your only stop sign, you control your destiny and you can create your future,” Selena Blair, student support services director at USC Upstate, told a group of Upward Bound students and their parents in her remarks at Tri-County Technical College’s 32nd annual Upward Bound Awards Banquet.

Ms. Blair was the keynote speaker at the annual awards banquet where high school students were recognized for their academic achievements.

Upward Bound is designed to help high school students to bridge the gap between secondary school and college and to provide them with financial and academic resources to prepare for postsecondary education.  The Upward Bound project, sponsored by Tri-County, serves 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th graders from Anderson, Oconee and Pickens counties and provides high school students with services year-round through its academic and summer bridge components.

For more than 30 years, Tri-County has provided the services of two federally funded TRiO programs – Upward Bound and Educational Talent Search. Tri-County’s TRiO programs are funded under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 and are designed to help students to overcome class, social and cultural barriers to higher education. They provide information, counseling, academic instruction, tutoring, and assistance in applying for college financial aid.

Ms. Blair talked openly and honestly about her life journey and how the TRiO programs were her salvation.

“I would not be who I am today without the TRiO programs,” she said.  A Talent Search participant through her senior year in high school, she said the program, which provides academic support and cultural exposure to students who need assistance in understanding their educational opportunities and options, “gave me hope, a life, dreams, confidence.  It saved me.  When others said I couldn’t, TRiO counselors said you will,” she said.

“It doesn’t matter where you live, who your parents are, or how much money they make, the contents of your mind will determine how far you go in life.  You and you alone,” she added.

As a multi-racial child raised by her Caucasian mother, Blair says she learned early how to deal with adversity. She proudly states that she was the only person to graduate from high school on both sides of her family.

“I know your struggles. Everything you need to be successful is locked up inside of you.  Your tomorrow is bright.  See yourself in a cap and gown, a business suit, with degrees hanging on the wall.”

As a low-income, first-generation college student, she was bound and determined not to end up working at a local restaurant as her mother suggested.  She tried various minimum-wage jobs but they weren’t for her.  Although a bright student, she scored 1200-plus on the SAT her senior year of high school. she decided to enlist in the Marines — not college.  At age 17, she went for her physical and discovered she was pregnant.  Instead of telling her mother, she confided in her Talent Search counselor who informed her that although she was pregnant, she was going to college.  With Beverly Campbell’s help and encouragement, she applied to S.C. State University and was admitted with a full scholarship.

“Miss Campbell won that battle and took me to enroll in school that summer where I finished with a 4.0.  She didn’t give up on me.  That’s what the TRiO programs are all about. They see something in you and they want better for you.”

With two children in tow, seven years later, she received her bachelor’s degree from Limestone.  “It was the greatest moment getting my degree with two children cheering me on,” she said.

Failure is not an option became her mantra. “Use your college resources. I broke the curse because of TRiO,” she said.

She began working for TRiO as a secretary and later as a counselor.  Later she worked as a financial aid officer and then assistant director of financial aid at Greenville Technical College.  Until just recently, she was director of Student Support Services in the TRiO office at Greenville Tech.

“Talent Search told me I could do it and you can do it, too.  It won’t be easy but with hard work and determination, anything is possible.  TRiO made me who I am.

At Tri-County’s banquet, students received plaques for outstanding achievement and most improvement in assessment, economics and government, English, math, science and Spanish.