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Professional Staff

Aliya Armstrong

Aliya Armstrong


Aliya Armstrong currently serves as the Director of TRIO-Teacher Preparation      Student Support Services (TPSSS).  Previously Aliya served as the Homeless Coordinator at Kentwood Public Schools. She began her professional career at Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) as a Language Arts Instructor. After graduating from Grand Valley State University in 2005 with a Master’s in School Counseling she left the classroom.  During her time at GRPS she enjoyed her roles as competitive cheer coach, lead teacher, family engagement facilitator, head counselor, national honor society advisor, senior class advisor, rocket team advisor, GRAPCEP coach, building liaison, and more.

Aliya has an overabundance of experience working with underrepresented undergraduate students and engaging them academically and socially. She has mentored and advised students from pre-admission to graduation. In fact, she was a first generation, low-income college student. She knows firsthand the impact a college degree has on a student’s life. “I believe in success and equity for all. My life is dedicated to removing obstacles and barriers,” said Aliya.

Aliya has a Bachelor’s degree in Education and a Master’s degree in English, both from Western Michigan University. She is also a licensed school counselor.

In her spare time Aliya enjoys spending time with her family, viewing movies with her spouse, reading, athletic events, and participating in running events with her organization Sisters Taking Action Reversing Statistics (S.T.A.R.S.).

You can email Aliya at

Vanessa Ramirez-Prado,  Program Advisor

Vanessa Ramirez-Prado

TRIO TPSSS Program Advisor

Vanessa currently serves as the Program Advisor for TRIO Teacher Preparation Student Support Services (TPSSS). Vanessa graduated from Grand Valley State University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Allied Health Sciences. As a first-generation college student, Vanessa was a part of the TRIO Student Support Services program. She also served as a student employee, peer mentor, and temporary assistant for TRIO Student Support Services. After graduation, Vanessa worked with TRIO TPSSS as the temporary program coordinator. 

Vanessa has a wealth of knowledge surrounding TRIO. She is TRIO. She believes in the mission and she knows firsthand the success that the TRIO programs are capable of. Her passion is supporting TRIO eligible students on their path to academic success, financial freedom and during their pursuit to study abroad. She is a mentor and an active volunteer in the community supporting many local non-profits including Kid's Food Basket. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with her family and her two babies (Chici Flaca and Lulu, her dogs!)

You can email Vanessa at



Sandra Couch

Professional Support Staff

Sandra Couch currently serves as the part-time Office Coordinator for TRIO-Teacher Preparation Student Support Services (TPSSS).  She is completing her studies at Grand Rapids Community College. Sandra soon plans to pursue her Bachelor’s Degree in the 4 in 1 program at GRCC in partnership with Ferris State University. Sandra hopes to use her skills that she has gained at to be a leader in her community and in her role at Grand Valley State University. Her warm smile can be found at the desk of 388C DeVos.

You can email Sandra at

Student Office Assistants


Hunter Binkley

Hunter is a sophomore here at Grand Valley. She is a double major in math and secondary education and a minor in psychology. Hunter enjoys kayaking and loves to rock climb on her spare time. She aspires to travel the world in the future. Hunter has a strong passion for helping children and young adults discover who they are and prepare for their future. Her goal upon graduating is to be a high school math teacher where she can begin to shape the lives of young students. Hunter hopes to have a positive impact on her students and look forward to her future as an educator!


LaJoya Fulton

LaJoya is a freshman here at Grand Valley State University. She is a Biology major. LaJoya enjoys kids and teaching them new things and also love animals too. She aspires to be a Veterinarian. Teaching secondary education is an option that she is interested and definitely will explore further in the future. LaJoya understands education is power, the power to educate those that are undereducated and she intends on being an active participant in doing so. LaJoya also plans on studying abroad her junior year in South Africa for about six weeks, during that time she will explore the land, go on an animal safari and get to work with kids in the classroom.


Kelli Nemetz (also a Peer Mentor)

Kelli is a senior at Grand Valley and a triple major in Elementary Education, English, and German. Along with working in the TRIO TPSSS office as a student assistant, Kelli also works as a Peer Mentor for the program. Kelli has a great passion for working and helping others, and cannot wait to pursue her passions by going into Education. By finishing up a Study Aboard program in Germany this summer and beginning her Student Assisting in the Fall, Kelli will be graduating April 2018! After that, she hopes to work in a 2nd or 3rd grade classroom somewhere around Michigan. Kelli is excited to be an advocate for all the awesome things TPSSS does for first generation students like herself!

Peer Mentors


Deon Evans

Deon is a senior at Grand Valley State University and a Physical Education major with a minor in Health Education. He has been an active participant in the TRIO TPSSS program for a year as a first-generation university student. Deon also serves as Grand Valley Licensed Massage Therapist through Campus Recreation, UREC council and PE Club board member. Deon is very excited to be working as a peer mentor!

Student Tutors

Eliza Ruffner

Eliza Ruffner

Eliza Ruffner serves as a TPSSS Tutor for English/Reading/Writing. She is currently studying Secondary Education and English with a Biology minor at GVSU. She will be Teacher Assisting in Fall 2017 at Godwin Heights High School. Upon graduating, Eliza hopes to work as an English teacher in an area high school where she can make the subject more accessible and fun for students who come from different backgrounds.

Outside of class, she facilitates the First-Year Queer Alliance through the Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center and is the co-president of In The Margins Poetry club, a safe-space club for students who hold marginalized identities to create and share their writing. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, long boarding, and geeking out about Star Wars.


Madelaine White (also a Peer Mentor)

Madelaine White is a Junior at Grand Valley State University, she is continuing her studies in Language Arts. Madelaine hopes to be able to impart pieces of herself into her students lives. Her experience with teaching includes teaching English to Brazilian students over a six month period. Madelaine says this has cultivated her abilities to teach in extensive diversity. She has also participated in performing arts since she was very young. Madalaine hopes to use her visuals, sounds, and movements to reinforce the student's learning in a way that is not common for everyone. TRIO TPSSS is very grateful to have Madelaine on board with us as a math tutor this semester. 

Page last modified February 22, 2018