Upward Bound alum fashions new course for next generation students

Dawn Einsel

If anyone knows how the 18 young girls in Upward Bound’s first fashion class feel, it’s Tameka Ellington, assistant professor at the School of Fashion Design. Ellington shares more than just an interest with her pupils; she was once in the exact same place that they are today.

Like many of the girls she now teaches, Ellington was in the ninth grade when she started in the Upward Bound program at Cuyahoga Community College’s Metropolitan Campus. There she attended classes and tutoring for two years until she was old enough to go out into the work force. Coming from a low-income, single-parent family, she felt that, at the time, it was necessary to put finances before education.

“Sometimes I think about whether or not I regret it, but I had a great experience while I was in the program and I love it to this day,” said Ellington. “That is one of the reasons why I still wanted to be a part of it.”

When Ellington was put in charge of recruitment and diversity for the School of Fashion Design, she contacted Upward Bound about a workshop class. They proposed a fashion class aimed at setting up a channel between Upward Bound and the school of fashion.

Ellington started the five-week course — considered an elective — by teaching her students a few lessons in fashion and advertising.

Many of the girls admitted to being nervous about creating for the first time, but they said it was encouraging to have someone that they could connect with and help guide them through the process.

“I think she might have a better understanding of where we are coming from,” said Angelique Brantley, a 16-year-old student from Kent Roosevelt High School. “She helps us out a lot.”

Ilianna Velez, a 15-year-old from Lorain High School, agreed and said that she has learned a valuable lesson from her time in Ellington’s class.

“It’s hard, but I learned not to give up,” she said. “In the end, it’s worth it.”

Ellington hopes the students’ ability to live on campus, something that was not an option for her at Tri-C, would enhance their experience and lead to a greater connection with the program and their peers.

“I try to give them as much encouragement as I can,” she said. “I know it can be weird to compare themselves to me, but if I can do it, they can do it.”

After a few weeks of tracing, cutting and sewing, the students will be able to display their finished garments at a fashion show at the closing ceremony for the Upward Bound program on July 16th.

Ellington says she has a good group of girls who are all doing very well. She said she hopes to continue the course in the future to give more students who are interested in fashion a chance to become a part of a program with which she will always be glad to be involved.

“Once you are in Upward Bound, you are in it for life,” said Ellington. “It’s like a family.”

Contact fashion reporter Dawn Einsel at [email protected].