MONMOUTH -- This past summer, high school students packed their bags, left their parents and set out to experience the real world
at least for six weeks.
Upward Bound students from Central, Dallas and McKay high schools lived on campus and took classes at Western Oregon University as part of the Upward Bound Summer Academy program.
WOU's Upward Bound was locally started in September 1999 as a result of a U.S. Department of Education grant. The four-year grant gives WOU at least $800,000 for the program. To receive this support, WOU had to justify its reasons for beginning Upward Bound. "We had to show a need for the program," said WOU business professor John Leadley, "We had to argue that there's a sufficient pool of potential students in the area."
The program is designed for students who aren't sure about college or who question whether higher education is a real possibility for them. "Upward Bound showed me that there's opportunities for everyone to go to college, even if they think they can't go," said DHS sophomore and honor student Erin Lewis.
This attitude is helping students understand how to apply their abilities in high school and beyond. "We want to help students achieve success in high school and develop the skills and confidence necessary for a college education," said WOU President Betty J. Youngblood. "We all benefit when students realize their potential."
To help realize this potential, Upward Bound provides students with extra tutoring, scholarship searches, financial aid help, career internships, college visitations, and a special opportunity to attend the Upward Bound Summer Academy.
As a part of the summer stay, students ate, slept and studied at the WOU campus. "This prep program helps to expose students to the college life experience," said Lee. A part of that is learning how to become independent and manage money for food. "College isn't nearly as scary to me now that I know I can take care of myself," said DHS sophomore Heather Ann Bond.
The summer stay also helped students realize what they like and don't like about college. "I learned that I don't like dorms and that commuting isn't so bad for college," said DHS junior Shanna Fields. She realized that she preferred smaller colleges with smaller classes, which will help her when she's deciding which college to attend.
Dallas teacher Dr. Claire Parker is the Upward Bound advisor at DHS and taught an English course at WOU for the students. She believes that the course work prepared some of the students for higher level learning. "They have been exposed to different things so they bring a different perspective to everything they do," she said.
The program provides instruction in several academic areas, including math, laboratory science, composition, literature and foreign language.
"The summer classes helped me in high school, especially the extra help in math," said Central High School junior Esmeralda Amecua. Students learned that at a university, expectations are different. "College is more up to you, whether you do your work or not," Lewis said. "It's your education and you get what you put into it."
Aside from an educational experience, students also were given opportunities to do fun activities like going to the beach.
DHS counselor Dobie Long believes that the program is impacting the lives of these students. "It always makes a difference when somebody takes an interest in kids' lives. Kids feel more supported," she said.
Upward Bound supports about 50 students who must meet certain requirements before joining the program. In order to be eligible, neither of the student's parents who they live with can be a graduate of a four-year college. The student's family must also meet income guidelines.
The student must be willing to go to college and put in the time that it takes to get there. Upward Bound is currently accepting new members. Students may pick up an application from their school's Upward Bound advisor.
The program serves about 20 students each from both Central and McKay and another 10 to 15 from Dallas.
"The value to WOU -- I wouldn't say it's minimal," Leadley said, "but it's a service we're doing. This isn't a moneymaker for us. We're doing it to provide a service to community students. We're not going to view this as a recruiting mechanism."
Added Youngblood, "We want to help students achieve success in high school and develop the skills and confidence necessary for a college education. We all benefit when students realize their full potential. Upward Bound is a proven and powerful resource in serving today's youth."
Viktoria Putintsev is a Dallas High School journalism student working in a school-to-work internship at the Itemizer Observer.