Upward Bound: Preparing high school students for college

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After six-weeks of intensive sessions and college level coursework, 49 Baltimore County high school students graduated from the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) Upward Bound program on July 26, 2017 in hopes of matriculating into college.

From June 18 to July 26, the students participated in program at CCBC and lived on the campus of University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMUC).

Upward Bound is a nationwide, grant funded educational program, authorized by the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965. At the time, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the legislation into law, it was intended to “strengthen the educational resources of our colleges and universities and to provide financial assistance for students in postsecondary and higher education.” Since 1965 the HEA has been reauthorized nine times.

Coordinated by CCBC, the Upward Bound program was initiated in 1987 and serves students who have demonstrated academic potential. The program is in its 30th year of promoting the development of students’ basic academic skills, cultural enrichment and the motivation to successfully matriculate to and graduate from a four-year college. To ensure the students’ highest success rate, the scholars are required to participate in all of the program’s activities.

Jamil Charles, 17, a third year Upward Bound scholar who plans to study nuclear or electrical engineering and to attend Alabama State or the University of Maryland on a full academic scholarship.

Intellectually daring and with a wise perspective on life, Charles said, “I don’t want my mother to pay a dime for college. It’s not an option about going to college, it’s a must.”

With a 3.8 grade point average, Charles is a member of the National Honor Society, executive treasure for student government association at Owings Mills High School and plays football, lacrosse and wrestles during the school year.

According to Sherron Edwards, director, CCBC Upward Bound, two thirds of the students must meet the income guidelines and be first generation to attend college— neither parent may have Bachelor’s degree. The remaining third may exceed the income guidelines or may not be first generation college graduates.

“We track students for six years after they’ve completed the program,” said Edwards.

The Department of Education requires an annual performance report detailing students’ coursework, grades, grade point average and test results, according to Edwards. During the Upward Bound matriculation and coaching process, Edwards reviews students’ assessments of their actual reading level versus “what their report card says.”

Although excited about attending Upward Bound in his freshman year, Dana Thomas’ refocused his attention to improve his grade point average. At the end of the first quarter of his sophomore year, he earned straight A’s.

“I was ecstatic about being eligible,” he said.

With a broad smile and dread locks reaching his shoulders, the 17 year old rising senior at Landsdowne High School laughed as he recalled how he pretended to be a Power Ranger. Now the aspiring actor and model aspires to study theater and attend Maryland Institute College of Art.

“I’m finding out who I am and how to support myself. Anybody who wants better for themselves should be part of Upward Bound,” he said. “They give you the tools you need to succeed, you just have to use them.”

Many of the students learned about the program through word-of-mouth, like 18-year-old Rico Dorsey, whose godfather participated in the program 10 years ago. Rico has participated in the program for three years as a student at Milford Mill Academy. This summer he returned to serve as a summer bridge student.

“It’s a place of peace, as long as you create the atmosphere,” he said. Rico established networks with other Upward Bound scholars that he went through the program with and they remain in contact.

Michael Thompson, residential director of CCBC Upward Bound program and residential assistant Danielle Jordan organized academic activities, coordinated collegiate workshops and invited several guest speakers, including a local attorney, April Watts, radio personality of Magic 95.9 and Nadir Nasheed, director of Trading Places Mentoring Academy.

Thompson hopes that by broadening their career scope, the students will take advantage of opportunities that are presented to them.

“In addition to learning in school, we want our scholars to educate themselves outside of the school environment,” he said.

Lucy Ekeh raced at the opportunity to attend the summer intensive program. She was accepted into the program and less than a month later she moved into a dorm room. Unlike some other Upward Bound scholars, both of Lucy’s parents graduated from college in Nigeria. Combining her athleticism with academics, the incoming senior at Landsdowne High School is interested in studying law.

“The top three things I gained from the program is a sense of guidance, preparation and responsibility,” said Ekeh. She said her organization and planning skills has increased significantly since the start of the program.