Upward Bound Ups Its Funding

Youngstown State University’s Upward Bound program qualified for a $249,000 grant and Sherri Woods, director of YSU’s Upward Bound and Summer College/Occupational Preview Experience programs, had nothing but praise for the program and its services.

“Upward Bound assists students in recognizing that college is their opportunity,” Woods said.

Upward Bound is an organization serving low-income, possible first-generation college-bound students. To qualify for Upward Bound, high school students must hold at least a 2.0 grade point average and neither of the parents can hold a bachelor’s degree.

Kassey Nall cherishes her work as a SCOPE and Upward Bound coordinator.

“I’m a first-generation college student,” Nall said. “Someone got me to this point, and I’m always purposed to do the same thing.”

All participants at YSU’s Upward Bound program are from Youngstown City Schools. Students from Chaney High School, Choffin Career and Technical Center and East High School are eligible to apply.

At least 11 to 12 high school freshmen are admitted to Upward Bound every school year based on the previous year’s senior graduates. The program services 50 students, from freshmen to seniors, at any time.

“The coordinators are like journey coaches,” Woods said. “They walk alongside the students, assisting them in addressing the non-academic barriers that hinder academic success.”

The allocated money is part of a five-year, $1.25 million grant. Money will continue to be allocated from September 2012 until August 2017.

Funding comes from the U.S. Department of Education.  Every year Upward Bound must meet certain requirements to receive grant funding.

“Each time it’s a new process,” Woods said. “Just because we were recipients before does not mean that we will automatically get the grant again.”

The money from the grant will be allocated toward funding Upward Bound programs and employees’ salary. Upward Bound is staffed by two full-time coordinators and a part-time secretary.

“We are able to provide more services with a limited budget,” Woods said. “We are fortunate to be able to receive it.”

Upward Bound is a part of the Turning Roadblocks Into Opportunities program.

Around 250 students have participated in Upward Bound since its arrival at YSU in 1998. Last year, 84 percent of Upward Bound participants enrolled in post-secondary education.

“What I like best about Upward Bound is that it’s just not an academic program,” Woods said. “We work with a whole person, so we do social, emotional and intelligence.”

Upward Bound does not limit its curriculum to preparation for standardized testing and college preparation. Teaching participants how to form valuable relationships and communicate properly with others is a major priority for coordinators.

“If they don’t master those life skills, then they are not able to be an effective student,” Woods said.

For the coming school year, Upward Bound has adopted a new motto: “Model, Motivate, Mentor and Multiply.”

“I’m in my happy place being here with the students,” Nall said. “I know that I’m make a difference and being able to guide them through their college-decision making.”