More than 150 high school students from several Rio Grande Valley high schools converged recently at The University of Texas-Pan American to celebrate National TRIO Day.
"I want to tell you congratulations for making that decision to take that extra step," said Dr. John Edwards, UTPA vice president for Enrollment and Student Services.
Upward Bound is one of seven federally funded programs that make up TRIO. The program has existed at UTPA since 1972 and has assisted students from low-income families finish high school, enter college and successfully graduate.
"We are one of the oldest projects in the country," said Sofia Piña, UTPA Upward Bound director. "Without the help of this program, a lot of students would struggle tremendously."
To help celebrate National TRIO Day, Norma Brewster, a representative of the Office of Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, presented Edwards and Piña with a copy of a Congressional Record dated Feb.13, 2002, in which Hinojosa discussed the success of the TRIO programs in the Valley.
"These programs promote educational excellence in at-risk students through mentoring, counseling and support," Hinojosa stated. "The goal is to make sure that these students stay in school so they can complete their education and become part of the American dream."
State Rep. Roberto Gutierrez was guest speaker. He encouraged students to go forward with their higher education goals and discussed the future of education. Other activities throughout the day included presentations on how the TRIO programs began; a presentation by the UTPA Office of Recruitment and Orientation Services; and a presentation on the transition from Upward Bound to Student Support Services. Upward Bound students who will be competing in the 25th Annual Academic Bowl in Laredo provided entertainment.
Currently, UTPA Upward Bound serves more than 150 students from six local high schools, including Edinburg North, Johnny G. Economedes, Edcouch-Elsa, Mission, Hidalgo and Valley View.
"Our students are very committed young students because they give up 25 Saturdays in an academic year because they want to do better in school," said Piña.
Alejandro Colunga, a former Upward Bound student and current UTPA sophomore, recommends students get involved in Upward Bound and learn about the services and opportunities it offers.
"I think Upward Bound was a stepping stone for me to get into college," Colunga said. "It helped me in the transition from high school to college. They were always there to support me, and they still keep in touch with me. You can always count on them."
Students in Upward Bound meet for 25 Saturdays during the academic year and participate in a five-week summer program. After three years, they have the opportunity to enroll in up to six hours of college courses, with expenses covered by the program.
The TRIO programs include Talent Search, Upward Bound, Upward Bound Math Science, Veterans Upward Bound, Student Support Services, Educational Opportunity Centers and the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement.
Today, more than 1,200 colleges, universities and community agencies host approximately 2,400 TRIO programs that serve 723,000 students.