Upward Bound creates opportunities for students from low-income families

Allison Brookes

For most high school students, summer consists of sleeping in, swimming and relaxing, but for the 145 students in the Upward Bound program at Kent State, they continue their education instead.

Upward Bound is one of the initial programs created as a part of the Higher Education Acts in 1964 that targets 9th to 12th grade students. This federal grant program provides low-income students who are the first in their families to seek the opportunity for higher education.

“The main goal of Upward Bound is to prepare students to enter in and succeed in college,” said Dana Lawless-Andric, associate director of Pre-College – TRIO Programs.

Of the three Upward Bound programs here at Kent, the Upward Bound Classic Program has been in place since 1971. The Upward Bound PREP Academy and the Upward Bound Math/Science Center started in Kent in 1999.

Every year the program is evaluated through an annual progress report, Lawless-Andric said. This includes a report on all the students currently in the program, as well as graduates from the past six years.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, from 2004 to 2009, 75 percent of the Upward Bound college enrollees either graduated or are continuing their degree, compared to the national average of 60 percent for first-generation students. According to the State Report Card, from 2004 to 2009 99.6 percent of Upward Bound participants graduated from high school, compared to the state average of 84.6 percent.

“What Upward Bound does is see in students the things they maybe don’t see in themselves and pulls it out,” Lawless-Andric said. “This gives them the potential and the right to have a successful future.”

During the summer, the Upward Bound students stay on campus in Beall Hall and are in class Monday through Thursday. The classes mainly focus on developing skills for the ACT, while teaching life skills in the evenings. Lawless-Andric said the Upward Bound leaders take the kids on trips for team building exercises on Fridays.

The Colleges of Business, Technology, Architecture and Arts and Sciences all partner with the Upward Bound program during the summer to show the students the variety of programs college can offer.

Tasha Allen-Perry, a high school senior, has been coming to Kent as part of the Upward Bound program for the past four summers.

“I especially like the math classes,” Allen-Perry said. “The professors they have here are excellent.”

The Upward Bound program also gives students the tools to navigate the college system. Even if their parents didn’t go to college, the students will still be familiar with the application process and financial aid.

“We have students with very challenging backgrounds and students who come from great backgrounds,” Lawless-Andric said. “But folks who have never struggled or don’t realize the precious resource of having someone go to college before you who can show you the way, often don’t get it.”

On Sunday, families of the students in the Upward Bound program came to Family Day at Beall Hall for ice cream, games and socialization. Past alumni of the program also came to this event.

Sasha Swoveland, a Kent State Alumna, was in the Upward Bound program for four years. In the fall, she will be attending Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.

“I was granted a lot of opportunities with this program,” Swoveland said. “It opened doorways that otherwise wouldn’t have been opened.”

Contact diversity reporter Allison Brookes at [email protected].