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Upward Bound: Exposing teens to a bigger world
by Sarah Taylor
Sep 08, 2010 | 918 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Upward Bound program at Coastal Bend College is getting ready to begin its 37th year of introducing low income, first-generation college students to college preparation, life management skills and tutoring, among other eye-opening experiences.

The program is designed for high school students from Beeville, Skidmore, Pettus and Mathis. Freshmen and sophomores may apply in September and October. Requirements include need, an assessment test score and interview.

Once each program year begins, students meet at the college on 24 Saturdays during the school year. The following summer, students complete a six-week residential program, where they “live the college life,” according to program director Cheryl Gallagher.

“Students take regular classes, but they get no high school or college credit,” said Gallagher. “They’re strictly to accelerate learning.”

Aside from supplemental classes, Upward Bound brings in career speakers and takes the students on college and university visits and other field trips. At the beginning of each year, the staff conduct a student survey to find out what their interests are.

Gallagher said the program tries to give the students cultural and world experience in addition to academics. Several students have never been to the lake, theater, or even to a restaurant before Upward Bound.

“We try to expose the students even to the simplest things,” said Gallagher. “We don’t want them to feel foreign in big towns.”

Part of the students’ requirements is to go on two field trips each year. Then, if the students have passed all of their classes, they can go on a summer trip. In 2006, seniors were able to go to Washington, D.C. Many had never flown before.

“This year, we went to Dallas. Several students had never been past San Antonio,” Gallagher said.

The program has an incredibly high success rate, with 95 to 100 percent of students going on to universities. Upward Bound helps them apply for admissions, scholarships and financial aid, in addition to providing letters of recommendation and helping with essays and resumes.

Gallagher said the program staff keeps in touch with students from 2000 through the present. Many of those have gone to prestigious schools such as MIT, attended graduate school, become college counselors, radiologists and entered other careers.

“We just give them the guidance and persistence to get where they want to go,” Gallagher said.

Vanessa DeLeon, advisor and recruiter at CBC, is an Upward Bound graduate.

“I got involved when I was a freshman because a couple of students I looked up to were in the program, and I wanted more of the right friends,” she said. “I was very shy.”

As she progressed in the program, DeLeon said she became influenced by the different colleges and the life she could have that she hadn’t previously known about.

After graduating from A.C. Jones, DeLeon earned her associate’s degree at CBC before graduating with her bachelor’s degree at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in mass communication.

“If I hadn’t done the program, I’d probably be working at (a fast-food restaurant),” DeLeon said. “If I didn’t have Upward Bound’s positive influence, I wouldn’t be where I am.”

DeLeon said Upward Bound also led to her career choice.

“I originally wanted to be a reporter,” said DeLeon. “But that dream kind of faded, and I decided to be a counselor at CBC so I could give back. I really enjoy helping the students and telling them I’ve been where they are.”

The Upward Bound program can contain 75 students at a time. Each year, they replace graduates with the same number of new students.

The program will accept 26 new freshmen and sophomores this fall. They will be recruiting throughout September and October. Testing dates will be Sept. 25 and Oct. 2 at 9 a.m. in the CBC SUB building. Interested students can show up on test days without pre-registering.

Students need only to score at or around their grade level to be successful on the exam. The test is only one part of the admissions process.

Admitted students will be initiated in November.

Sarah Taylor is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or sarah@mysoutex.com.
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