Students stay sharp in Upward Bound Summer Program
Summer has come, but class is not out for students in the College of the Mainland Upward Bound Program.
Coming from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. to take math, science, English and elective classes, more than 50 Upward Bound students enroll in six-week crash courses to get ahead.
“My friends were doing it. It was so much fun,” said Bobbi Whitaker, a junior from Dickinson High School. “It's pretty challenging, taking classes for next year.”
The program aims to boost students’ success in the coming school year by introducing them to the subjects they will enroll in the fall.
Samuel Parada, 15, from Dickinson High School, will be a sophomore this fall and is taking math, science, English, and as his elective, Psychology for Success. After Parada's older brother introduced him to the program, Parada joined last year as a freshman. He is enjoying his first summer program.
"(Teachers) make learning … educational and fun. They do a lot of stuff but crushed in six weeks,” he explained. “There are more hands-on assignments."
Parada dissected a fetal pig in a biology lab and explored how to handle the pressures of college in Psychology for Success with stress testers and games.
Preparing for his sophomore year, Parada plans to take college classes in COM Collegiate High School this fall and earn his two-year degree by high school graduation.
For him and other Upward Bound students, the benefits don't end with the summer. Throughout the year Upward Bound students gather on Saturdays for academic workshops in the morning and activities such as bowling, plays or museum visits in the afternoon.
For many the cultural experiences are opportunities otherwise barred to them.
“Part of our program embeds cultural activities something out of the norm of kids’ lives,” said Upward Bound director Ciro Reyes. “It wants students to be well-rounded, not just good academic students.”
Plus, if students need extra tutoring, they know they can always go to Reyes or academic adviser Caleb Sawyer.
“They give a lot of time to us,” said student Elyssa Davila, who attends COM Collegiate High School in addition to Upward Bound.
As future first-generation college graduates, students tour college options. They recently visited Tulane University and Xavier University of Louisiana.
The latter’s pharmacy program impressed student Rosie Calderon.
"I'm kind of considering that school now," said Calderon. "I never knew about it before."
After students select a university, Reyes and Sawyer will assist them with admissions, financial aid forms and scholarship applications.
"They help us with the college process," said Parada. "They will do everything in their power to help you succeed.”
Alex Rodriguez has been part of the program for five years, since the end of eighth grade.
“I got here and I didn’t know what to expect. The first people I met welcomed me and encouraged me to stay,” said Rodriguez. “Upward Bound has provided me with countless opportunities. Without Upward Bound I wouldn’t have visited any colleges or universities.”
Students also join service projects, such as volunteering at the M.I. Lewis food pantry in Dickinson.
"Upward Bound is not just what we do in there," said Parada. "It's bringing back to the community."