EDINBURG -— While some high school students may still be trying to figure the ins and outs of high school, 16-year-old Jacklyn McJunkin of Mission is already preparing herself for college through the UTPA Upward Bound Program.
"I wanted to make sure I went to college," said McJunkin, now a junior at Mission High School. "My father didn’t get the chance to go to college and I wanted something different for myself. I wanted to make sure I got an education."
The Upward Bound Program at The University of Texas-Pan American is designed to provide services to approximately 130 eligible high school students from 10th through 12th grade, from six local Rio Grande Valley high schools.
"The goal of the program is for students to achieve academic skills enhancement and motivation, to succeed in attaining a high school degree and enter into and complete a post secondary education program," said Dora Martinez, director for the Upward Bound Program at UTPA.
According to Martinez, upon entry into the Upward Bound Program, students must make a three-year commitment to attend both the academic and the summer school portions of the program.
"It is a big commitment, but it’s well worth it," said McJunkin. "Sure I miss out on some Saturdays, but in the long run the program pays off by giving you a head start in your education."
Martinez said students are transported to the UTPA campus for twenty-five Saturdays to receive supplemental academic support and assistance in the core subject areas.
During the twenty-five Saturdays, five days are reserved for other special projects, such as Career Day/Student Leadership Conference, college visits and community service projects.
In addition to this instruction, the program also provides counseling/advising classes in which students receive services in career, academic, group counseling as well as college advisement, study skills, and other support toward guidance geared to post-secondary success.
Daniela Guardiola, a senior at Edcouch-Elsa High School, said the advisement she has received while attending the program has been invaluable.
"Before I started the program, I new I wanted to go to college, but I didn’t even know how to go about applying to one," Guardiola said. "This program has showed me what I needed to do in order to prepare myself. I may not know which college I’m going to attend right now, but I know I’m going and I know I’m better prepared."
Tutorial services are also provided to the students at the target high schools which include Edcouch-Elsa High School, Edinburg North High School, Hidalgo High School, La Villa High School, Mission High School and Valley View High School.
The summer school component of the program provides daily instruction on the UTPA campus to prepare students for the advanced courses that they will be enrolling in the following school year at their high school.
In order to simulate a college going experience, the program offers 40 students an opportunity to live in the UTPA campus dorms during the summer Martinez noted.
This residential program also offers the students an opportunity to participate in evening activities on campus, as well as access to other campus facilities and activities. All other Upward Bound students commute to the summer classes.
Martinez also said the Upward Bound seniors are also given an opportunity to enroll in the Summer Bridge Program to facilitate the transition from high school to college. The Bridge participants can enroll in six hours of college credit during the first summers session at the UTPA campus. They are required to attend three hours of group study/tutoring sessions on campus and also meet weekly with the Academic Advisor to discuss their progress.
Rudy Maldonado of Edinburg, has just completed the program and was recently accepted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
"Since my sophomore year in high school I wanted to got to MIT," Maldonado said. "Upward Bound had everything to do with me getting there. It wasn’t easy, but it was well worth the effort."
For more information on the Upward Bound Program, contact Dora Martinez at 956/381-2597.