Springfield, MO

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2014 40 Under 40 Honoree: TaJuan Wilson

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TaJuan Wilson is a first-generation college student. Grateful for the opportunity he received, Wilson has committed the last few years to assisting first-generation college students through Missouri State University’s Trio programs.

As MSU’s Trio director, Wilson also helps low-income and disabled students achieve their educational goals.

In the past year or so, Wilson has assisted in providing $100,000 in aid to disadvantaged students and served as a mentor for dozens of other youth. He’s also presented at two student leadership conferences targeting disadvantaged youth.

“I’ve written many grants, but due to significant cuts from the Department of Education and a tumultuous past for the program, no one was really sure that we would be refunded,” Wilson says of the six-figure funding he secured for another five years for Trio’s Upward Bound program for high school students. “I went into education because I am passionate about the success of first-generation, low-income students, and this grant ensures that deserving students in the Springfield community will continue to be served.”

He’s made the most of his higher educational opportunities and currently is pursuing a doctorate in higher educational instructional leadership through Lindenwood University in St. Charles. “Completing the first year of my doctoral studies at 27 was a great accomplishment. I will be completely done at the age of 28,” he says.

The MSU program Wilson heads up is among some 2,700 federal Trio programs through the Office of Post Secondary Education offering academic support to a combined 866,000 low-income Americans.

A Trio alum himself, Wilson has benefited firsthand from the tutoring, reading and career advising assistance programs. Wilson and four staff members lead qualified students to available scholarships unique to their race or situation, run workshops on resume-writing and cultural diversity, for instance, and assist high school students make the jump to college. Since taking the director position in February 2011, program participation has increased 15 percent, and Wilson now oversees federal grants nearing $500,000 annually. The program recently passed a 12-month annual inspection by the U.S. Department of Education with zero errors. Mandated by Congress, two-thirds of students served are from families with incomes less than $28,000 and where neither parent has graduated from college.

Wilson also is a part-time instructor of general education programs at MSU and an executive board member for the NAACP Springfield chapter. One of two people selected from the tri-state region, he recently completed the Emerging Leaders Institute of the Mid-American Association of Educational Opportunity Programs Personnel.

“Having the opportunity to impact the lives of others through my work each and every day is incredibly rewarding,” he says.[[In-content Ad]]


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