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Upward Bound assists students with college preparation
Contact: Sandra Faires, Intern 381-2741
Posted: 08/10/2006
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The Upward Bound (UB) Program at The University of Texas-Pan American recently ended its 34th year of providing services to Rio Grande Valley high school students in an effort to encourage and prepare them to attend and be successful in college following high school graduation.

Serving approximately 150 eligible high school sophomores, juniors and seniors annually, UB recruits students for its program that meet certain criteria according to Marie Yvette Flores, UB counseling specialist II.

Pictured left to right are Manuel Ochoa, director, UTPA Upward Bound Program; Maribel Luna, Upward Bound valedictorian and junior from Edinburg Economedes High School; Amanda Avalos, Upward Bound salutatorian and senior from Valley View High School; Felipe Salinas, director, UTPA College Access and Support Programs; and Dennis McMillan, associate vice president, UTPA Enrollment and Student Services.
"The student must be from a low-income family or be a first-generation college student with an academic need," she said.

Through the program, students receive education in the core subject areas of English, science and math. Life management skills and a foreign language are also part of the instruction.

Diana Moros, who has been an Upward Bound teacher for nine years said she asks students what they want in their future. "They have to be well informed about their decisions and as long as they get the ball rolling and do their best, then they will be successful," she said.

For the academic year component, student participants are transported to the UTPA campus for 25 Saturdays to receive supplemental academic support and assistance in the core subject areas as well as counseling and course advisement.

Five days are reserved for special projects, such as college visits, community service and cultural events. The five-week summer component provides daily instruction on campus to prepare students for the courses that they will be enrolling in the following school year.

Moros said she has found that students who go through the Upward Bound Program are likely to be more confident in what they are able to do.

"The shy and intimidated students come out of their shell with the availability of more information and by working with students from the other schools. Their grades improve at their high schools because the Upward Bound Program enhances the skill of their core curriculum," she said.

In order to experience college life, the program offers its graduate students an opportunity to live on the UTPA campus. All other UB students commute to the summer classes. Flores said at least 90 percent of all UB graduates live on campus.

The UB Program graduates are given the opportunity to enroll in a Summer Bridge Program to facilitate the transition from high school to college. Through these activities, the program hopes to achieve its goal of ensuring student success in post-secondary education.

"Once students complete the three-year commitment with the UB Program, they enter college the first summer session following graduation from high school," Flores said. "At this point, they gain six college hours and have a first hand experience about college life."

To recognize the student's hard work during the year, an End of Year Banquet is held annually for students, parents and staff. The banquet honored the valedictorian and salutatorian for the summer program and other top students in each class subject for the past academic year.

Honored at the July 15 banquet were Valedictorian Maribel Luna, an entering junior at Johnny G. Economedes High School in Edinburg and Salutatorian Amanda Avalos, an entering senior at Valley View High School. Other awards presented included seven perfect attendance awards, student council awards, as well as recognition for achievements in English, science, math, pre-calculus and calculus. Each student who was present received a certificate of completion.

Avalos recommends the program for the opportunities it provides. "I think people should go to Upward Bound because you have fun while you learn and because you get six-credit hours paid for during summer session I. You also get to enjoy extra activities, like going to a camp to learn leadership skills," she said.

The UTPA Upward Bound Program is currently accepting applications for the next academic year. For more information, contact Manuel Ochoa, UB Program director, at 956/381-2596 or visit www.ess.panam.edu/ub.

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