April 20, 2014

Eastern Michigan's Upward Bound program awarded $377,462 competitive grant for its successful college-prep activities

Program provides students with academic skills, motivation to succeed in college

by Pamela Young, Published November 06, 2013

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YPSILANTI – Upward Bound, Eastern Michigan University’s successful college-prep program for high school students, has been awarded a $377,462 renewal grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

The award will help the staff to identify, select and serve eligible students from Ypsilanti Community High School (formerly Ypsilanti and Willow Run High Schools.) The program is geared toward students from modest-income families or whose parents haven’t attended college.

“The competition for funding is pretty tough,” said Mark Jackson, project director. “The competition is based solely on performance, such as the percentage of students who remain in the program throughout high school; the graduation rate and those who enroll in college the following semester after graduation.”

EMU’s program provides students with the academic skills and motivation necessary to succeed in college, said Jackson. There is no cost to the students, but the program requires a commitment from both students and parents. EMU’s program, which was established in 1967, currently works with 85 high school students in grades 9-12.

“This is one of the primary ways that EMU has supported high school students in the Ypsilanti area for over four decades, and is one of the key ways that we support the new Ypsilanti community schools district,” said Russ Olwell, director of the Institute for the Study of Children, Families and Communities at Eastern Michigan.

EMU freshman Kaylan Roberson with Mark Jackson, project director for Upward Bound

Kaylan Roberson, 18, is an Upward Bound alumna who graduated from Ypsilanti High School in 2013. She’s now a freshman at Eastern Michigan, with the goal of studying early childhood education and minoring in special education. She says she’s doing well her freshman year, thanks to the skills she learned in Upward Bound.

“I’ve grown in such a short time,” Roberson said. “I’ve always had a passion to help people, which is why I want to teach. I’m best working with kids.”

Roberson said her high school freshman year grades weren’t very good when she was selected to participate in the program.

“I never really considered going to college,” she said. “I was shy and would sit in the back of the classroom taking notes. Now, I’m more confident of who I am and I sit in the front row in class. I’m free to express myself and don’t have to stand in the background.”

“EMU’s program works,” Jackson said. “An Upward Bound student’s chance of earning a bachelor’s degree is four times greater than that of a non-Upward Bound student from a similar background.

Jackson noted that the staff recently celebrated the program’s first Ivy Leaguer, LaTisha Cunningham, who graduated from Yale University. Three students, who graduated from high school in 2013, are attending the University of Michigan on full scholarships.

EMU’s program includes:

  • Educational, career and personal assessments to assist in developing an individual support plan, with students focused on reading, writing, language arts, critical thinking, math and other areas. Sophomores have to develop their personal resume based on what they want to be like one year from now. That resume becomes a plan for the following year.
  • Students attend weekly after-school study sessions with college-level tutors to assist with homework. Upward Bound students then become mentors for middle school students in the Mentor2Youth program.
  • Monthly group meetings host guest speakers and educational, career, cultural and social enrichment activities. As juniors, students reach a level of what Jackson calls internal motivation. The students begin to understand what is important and builds a culture that says it’s okay to make a mistake as long as you are trying to improve.
  • College preparation services including academic advising, free ACT test preparation, fee waivers for up to three college applications, hands-on guided assistance with college and financial aid applications, and the college selection process.
  • A five-week summer academy on EMU’s campus includes classes in mathematics, the sciences and language arts. Students live in the residence halls.
  • Senior seminars include field trips to college campuses in Michigan and neighboring states to encourage students to look at colleges that are a good fit for them.

This isn’t a recruitment program for Eastern Michigan, Jackson said. Students are exposed to a variety of campuses in cities such as Chicago, Washington DC and Boston.

Each student has to develop a senior portfolio before each trip and document everything they read about each university, ranging from faculty to student ratio, types of majors and graduation rates to availability of financial aid and what type of budget would be required to attend.

“I was amazed at the questions they asked when they met with college representatives,” Jackson said. “So many students pick a college based on popularity, yet it may not be the best fit for them. This allows them to make a strategic decision on which college is best for them.”

Roberson made the decision to attend Eastern Michigan based on what she calls her “comfort zone.” She is living on campus, even though she’s from Ypsilanti.

In addition to taking her general education classes, Roberson works eight hours a week in the Upward Bound office. She and other Upward Bound graduates have started a “Helping Hands” student organization where members mentor high school students in the Ypsilanti community. The group, which is open to all students, has 12 members.

For more information, visit the Upward Bound homepage.

 

Pamela Young

pyoung@emich.edu

734.487.4400

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