Upward Bound hosts Canton high schoolers


High school students from Canton gathered in the Architecture Library as part of the Upward Bound program, “Our Community is Upward Bound.” Photo by Khalil Dixon.

Khalil Dixon

The Kent State Pre-College/TRiO Upward Bound Programs joined the College of Architecture and Environmental Design July 9 through 17 to teach community planning and design to high school students from Canton.

The Upward Bound Program offers preparation for students seeking entrance to post-secondary education and helps them overcome social, academic and cultural barriers to higher education.

Beth Bilek-Golias, assistant professor at Kent State and outreach and service coordinator, worked with 37 students to discuss their perspective of what community is and what they might do differently.

“This year’s theme is ‘Our Community is Upward Bound,’” Bilek-Golias said. “We started in the Architecture Library to look at maps of Canton, where they are all from.”

Students designed green space, a community area within Canton and a monument that represents Upward Bound and the youth of the community.

Bilek-Golias said there is a different theme every year, and it is important to make the theme something meaningful the students have ownership of.

“They become invested in the themes, and the hands-on experiences are so much better than having me just stand there and talk at them,” Bilek-Golias said. “They’re getting on the floor and cutting and putting things together. Sometimes they fail, but they learn from that too. They learn even more by fixing it and figuring out how to make it work.”

Billy Mathess, a junior at Timken Senior High School, said Upward Bound has positively influenced the way he feels about college, and he feels a sense of accomplishment after completing the architectural section of the summer program.

“I find it interesting the different things we can do,” Mathess said. “Last year we spent the entire time building a bridge as a group. After I got done with that, I felt somewhat accomplished that I had actually done something.

“When I was in middle school, I never thought I was going to college. I thought I’d just join the military and that would be my life. This experience is actually getting me to think I’m going to college before I go to the military. It has given me peace of mind about what I can do with my life.”

Victoria Billman, a senior at McKinley Senior High School, has been in the program since she was a freshman. Billman said the theme of architectural projects helped her to understand her environment and the people around her.

“My first year, we did a ‘my space’ theme, which was your own design for a personal space,” Billman said. “Mine was a spa, a place just for me, a calming kind of place. We designed the colors, the carpet and got to pick little tiles and stuff.

“With the bridges last year, I think that really impacted me. I see now how you build bridges with other people when you’re communicating.”

Billman said students should take advantage of an opportunity to become a part of Upward Bound.

“Take advantage of the opportunity because it really does prepare you for college,” Billman said. “All the classes and the preparation helps you understand what [college] is going to be like. You make friends with people all around your community like Kenmore, Akron and Ravenna. You meet so many different people, and you learn a lot from them. It helps you grow.”

Natalie Olmos, a junior at McKinley, said the Upward Bound program has increased her interest in enrolling in college and has given her a sense of belonging.

“Upward Bound has had a really big impact on my life,” Olmos said. “Life at home isn’t that great, so coming here [to Kent State] is actually a relief. It gives me more of that open space to be myself. It gives me a place to relax and communicate with other people and not be so isolated. It’s very welcoming and very homey. It’s a family.”

Bilek-Golias said she hopes the students evolve to appreciate design disciplines and not simply architecture.

“We talk about interior design, we talk about engineering and we talk about construction just to give them exposure to what some of those possibilities might be for them and to encourage them and let them know that this is something that is within their reach,” Bilek-Golias said.

“Whether or not they go into a profession that is related to design, they are stakeholders because they inhabit buildings and they inhabit these kinds of spaces,” Bilek-Golias said. “I think by the end of the summer they walk away with a very positive view of this whole process.”

Contact Khalil Dixon at [email protected].