It may seem almost a deeply ingrained mantra for many UCSB students to follow the neatly-designated path leading from preschool to college graduation, much like the generations before them. There are many, though, who must rely upon the assistance of those in the community to guide them through high school and encourage them to seek higher education.
Upward Bound, a federally funded outreach program, is just one of these organizations that works to help students achieve their educational goals. They begin as early as eighth grade, targeting disadvantaged students who are interested in going to college and who have the potential for succeeding in college, even though they may be currently achieving grades below their potential.
“The mission is to have them enroll in a system of post-secondary education, whether that be a four-year university or a community college,” Upward Bound Director Joanne Madison said. “We even have students end up in the military, which still offers opportunities to go to college.”
Upward Bound began in 1968 as a federally funded program based off the 1965 High Education Act. Known as TRIO Programs, they were established by Congress to help low-income Americans enter college, graduate, and eventually find a more well-rounded economic and social life.
As mandated by Congress, two-thirds of the students served by these TRIO Programs must come from families with incomes that are 150% of the poverty rate. Several thousand colleges, universities, community colleges and agencies now offer TRIO Programs in America, and there are now roughly half a dozen different programs in existence as compared to the original three.
Another stipulation in becoming eligible for Upward Bound is that neither parent has obtained a four-year-college degree. Although there are exceptions, due mostly to divorce or disability, the program holds this as its second most important factor in determining candidates.
“We recruit at the junior high level, as they complete eighth grade and prepare for high school. We find that bringing them in right away helps develop an Upward Bound identity in them,” Madison said. “We also find that it’s very important to get the students as rising ninth graders because even to be UC eligible, one has to meet the A through G requirements. Even by sophomore year it can be too late.”
Upward Bound has programs running in six local high schools, including Dos Pueblos, Lompoc, San Marcos, Santa Barbara, Santa Maria and Carpinteria. Staff members begin making on-campus presentations as well as alerting teachers and counselors to make note of students that stand out.
Now deciding between Cal State Northridge and the California Maritime Academy, Lompoc High School senior Josh Delgado is like many Upward Bound students who have dedicated their time and energy over several years to their post-graduate success.
“They help you a lot,” Delgado said. “A friend of mine was involved and let me know what a good program it was. I was accepted and have been involved now since I was a freshman.”
The program is organized so that students who are accepted in the spring begin weekly tutorial sessions scheduled on the UCSB campus, as well as their high school campus. Roughly 80 high school students who have been accepted into Upward Bound attend two three-hour sessions on campus. Upward Bound also arranges buses to transport the students to and from their tutoring sessions. The weekday classes are tutored by UCSB students, many of whom are Upward Bound graduates themselves.
“I stayed with Upward Bound because of its profound effect on me,” sophomore psychology major and Upward Bound graduate Selena Nakano said. “I was the very first person in my family to come to college, so I really appreciate the help of Upward Bound in getting me here.”
In addition to tutoring in general math and science during the week, Upward Bound students also attend several “Saturday College” sessions a month where they are instructed on an array of topics including college prep, SAT instruction and personal development instruction that can include study skills, and sex/drug decision making.
Because it is a federally funded program, there is a greater allotment of funds for Upward Bound, enabling the group to indulge its students a bit more. Upward Bound is given $4,440 per student, per year, as compared to the $342 per student, per year given to another outreach program, “Talent Search.” This allows the program to offer a yearly college trip that takes students to various nationwide colleges where they visit campuses, stay in hotels, eat out at restaurants and are given a feel of a traditional college trip one would take with their parent.
“We’re taking the place of parents who would know what to do,” Madison said. “In each stage, we try and let them know what they should be taking, doing, and how to keep them on-track.”
Seniors involved in the program meet with a counselor who helps them in writing their personal statements, filling out their applications, turning in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and searching for scholarships.
“Meeting with the counselor is so helpful,” Delgado said. “You meet with them to talk about college and they really help point you in the right direction.”
After a busy year of weekly tutoring and Saturday College, nearly all the students are able to participate in a six-week stay in Tropicana Gardens over the summer for daily tutoring, group meetings and activities.
The classes offered over the summer are particularly beneficial because they are often what the student would be taking in the Fall, allowing them to be “ahead” when school begins.
“It’s a pretty demanding schedule,” Madison said. “The day starts at 6 a.m. with classes in English and math, as well as some interesting electives like dance, drama, computer science, Japanese culture, social psychology and radio news media.”
Though Upward Bound reaches students from the far reaches of Santa Barbara County, students from different schools room together and often become friends. The 70 students are subdivided into smaller “core groups” of 10 students and one resident assistant.
“This core group becomes their base throughout the program,” Madison said. “They meet every evening to talk and plan their own small field trips to places like downtown Santa Barbara, the Getty Museum, and such. We also hold the Upward Bound Olympics where core groups compete against each other in sports events, obstacle courses and egg tosses. It seems to really help them build their own friendships.”
“I still keep in touch with people in the program who have graduated and left,” Delgado said. “We talk all the time. The program is really a close-knit family so that we all keep in touch.”
The enjoyment of the program seems to affect almost all whom become involved, so that it spreads by word of mouth.
“I even got my brother in,” said Bishop High School junior Lorena Reyes. “I know as of now that I’m going to a four-year university. I really want to study pre-med or psychology. My dream school is Stanford, but we’ll see!”
An important aspect of Upward Bound is the involvement of UCSB students, especially those who are graduates of Upward Bound. Madison’s next endeavor is to organize an Alumni Association on campus for those who have come from the various Upward Bound programs across the country.
“We want to encourage Upward Bound alumni to work with us because they all have something in common,” Madison said. “We would absolutely love them to be tutors, RAs, and really be role models. If Upward Bound students come together on this campus, they will be able to realize that there are other students like them and they are really a part of something larger.”
There are currently Upward Bound programs at UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Riverside, UC San Diego, and UC Irvine, as well as others across the country.
“Other Upward Bound programs visit throughout the year and over the summer,” Madison said. “The Upward Bound from the University of Utah is coming this summer and will hopefully catch our UB Olympics.”
According to Madison, the acceptance and awareness of Upward Bound is imperative in its success.
“It’s an attempt to level the playing field for these students. People here might look at them as these noisy high schoolers, but they need to be welcomed. They need to be a part of the university community. They have every right to be here,” Madison said.
“Upward Bound really opens ways for you,” Reyes said. “It allows you to learn about things besides just your classes. You get to have real experiences. I would say it has really allowed me to increase my knowledge. Upward Bound lets you get to know yourself.”