Upward Bound expands its reach

Helping Houston high school students recognize their academic potential and prepare for college has always been the goal of the Upward Bound Program at UHD. Now, thanks to a $4.3 million grant (over the next five years), the program will be able to expand its offer and services.

“We were amazed and excited because now we could expand our reach,” said Dawana Lewis, Director of Upward Bound at UHD. “We started serving just 60 students to triple our reach to 175 students per year throughout the Houston area, starting this fall. We are creating a pipeline to higher education and effecting a generational transformation with this grant.”

UHD’s Upward Bound, a federally funded program, receives this highly competitive grant due to its quality programming, student success, and continuous exceeding of goals and quantitative targets. UHD’s UB program serves students in the Houston Independent School District through mentorship sessions, tutorials, test prep, college tours, cultural field trips, social events, and virtual tours. (think the Bill and Melinda Gates Museum in Seattle) and career tours across the nation – all specifically aimed at each student.

Lewis and his hardworking team coined the nickname “College Prep Central” for UHD’s Upward Bound program, which has existed at the university since 1980.

“Our goal is to provide programs and resources to underrepresented populations and to make higher education more accessible to lower-income, first-generation students,” Lewis noted. “This goal is achieved by developing soft skills as well as social and emotional IQ through real-world learning and on-the-job experiences. UHD’s Upward Bound program provides our students with academic instruction, tutoring, and counseling; information on financial assistance programs; assistance in completing financial aid applications; financial literacy; and support in applying to university.

Lewis and Associate Director Cassandra Booker-Narcisse research grants and serve as grant writers for the program. “We spend many nights and weekends looking for these grants. We are fueled by the needs of our students, from the pandemic to the evolution of our economy to their mental well-being. Lewis led the effort to form a grant team and determine how to continue to reach students as well as an internal “think tank” (UB staff Pat Hartwell, Joyce Hobbs, Lauren Hill, Vicki Lacy, LaTanya Miles ) to research the new needs of students.

“Our scholars are growing academically and socially,” Booker-Narcisse said. “They are like caterpillars that morph into butterflies, realizing their potential in ways they never imagined. They are more confident and stronger individuals. We are seeing improved academic achievement and greater interest for the university.

In addition to the scholarship program and support provided by the Houston Chapter of The Drifters, Inc. and the Houston Chapter of The Links, Inc., major Houston corporations (McCormick & Schmidt, Mia’s Table and Ambassador Restaurant) offered in-kind support. Also, the Houston City Breakfast Club has awarded scholarships to several UB students. Summer 2022 Upward Bound Scholars received the Affordable Robot Kit, a senior design project created by mechanical engineering students at Duke University that uses 3D-printed structural parts.

“The program improves student success and increases the University’s visibility, two initiatives of President Blanchard,” Lewis said. “We are creating a pipeline to higher education and UHD in particular. We want to expose and offer our students a glimpse of university life on campus during the summer, fall and spring semesters starting in ninth grade.

Lewis also noted that senior-year students can participate in a summer work-study program to earn college credit at UHD through its BRIDGE program — project-sponsored credit courses prepare students for the first semester. fall of university enrollment in the school of their choice. “This opportunity for students has increased enrollment at UHD, within the University of Houston system, as well as other colleges across the country, at the undergraduate and graduate levels.”

UHD Freshman Annie Meza was first introduced to Upward Bound as a high school student. Now she gives back to the program by serving as a mentor. “This program helped me apply and create a pathway to college,” she said. “I hope to do the same for other students who need mentoring. I love seeing the smiles and the impact we are able to have in the lives of students.

Kennedy Bosie, an alumnus of Upward Bound’s 2019 class at UHD, says the program got her into the college of her dreams. She attended South Early College High School in Houston where she graduated from high school while simultaneously graduating from Houston Community College. At the suggestion of a family friend, she decided to try Upward Bound.

“I started my Upward Bound journey as a rising junior; at the time, I had no idea what my future held for me. I also had a lot of anxiety because I was arriving late when some students had been there since their freshman year of high school,” Bosie said. “I was welcomed with open arms and treated like family from the start, with the staff and students creating a welcoming environment that helped me thrive during my high school career.”

Her determination and tenacious spirit enabled her to sustain a heavy academic load while attending HCC every day. “UB allowed me to enter the program late and receive full credit, offered me tutoring, provided office space to work on my academic assignments, and gave me guidance on career pathways. potential careers.” Bosie is a recipient of a scholarship from the Houston City Breakfast Club.

With help from Upward Bound, “I was accepted to my dream college, the University of North Texas, and graduated with honors in December 2021 with a Bachelor of Arts in English” , Bosie said. “I was thrilled when Upward Bound invited me back to work for them as I had an amazing experience as a student. My goal as a mentor is to give the same space, opportunities and experiences new students who are part of our big family.”

Upward Bound was the first federal program implemented in the nation to help low-income students prepare for college. The US Department of Education started the Upward Bound program nearly 60 years ago. It grew out of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 as part of the Lyndon B. Johnson administration’s war on poverty. Since its inception, Upward Bound has provided educational services to over two million students nationwide.

“I’m incredibly proud to have touched student lives over the years,” Lewis said. “I’m also proud to have held the position for over 30 years with the same Vice Principal, where we served over 1,347 students, 70% of whom graduated from college. We are creating a generational transformation… a true mark of success. I am also grateful to be part of a supportive community dedicated to inclusivity and creating a just and sustainable future for all.

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