The long-running Hope College Upward Bound Program has received a five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

The grant continues and even improves upon a strong tradition of support for the program, according to Elizabeth Colburn, director of Hope College Upward Bound.

"We're starting our 35th year, and fortunately we've been funded all the way through," she said. "This is the first time we've been able to get a five-year grant, so that's exciting for us."

The new grant totals in excess of $1,780,000 for the five years, and includes a two percent increase in support. Only a small percentage of programs received support for five years instead of four.

A total of 792 Upward Bound projects received funding in the latest cycle. Colburn noted that she is all the more appreciative since 51 previously funded programs did not receive grants this time. "We're grateful for the support, and it's nice in these tough economic times to get at least some increase," she said.

Upward Bound seeks to generate the skills and motivation necessary for success in education beyond high school among students from low-income and first generation families who have the potential to pursue a college education but may lack adequate preparation or support. The goal of the program is to increase the academic performance and motivational levels of eligible students so that persons may complete secondary schooling and successfully pursue post-secondary educational programs.

Established in 1968, the Hope College Upward Bound Program is one of the oldest continuous Upward Bound programs in the country, according to Colburn, and has been administered through Hope since its inception. The college contributes approximately $100,000 in support of the program each year.

Hope works with students from three school districts in Allegan and Ottawa counties, including Holland, West Ottawa and Fennville. During the last four years, the program has achieved a 95 percent success rate in enrolling students in post-secondary institutions.

Although the focus of Upward Bound is on academic advising and support, the program also continually offers personal and career counseling as well as involvement in cultural and recreational activities.

The program is funded for 70 students, but has a substantial waiting list of eligible students interested in participating. Although Upward Bound staff recruits students from the program's target area, many students are recommended by counselors, teachers, agencies and churches in the community.

Throughout the academic year, students come to Hope College twice a week to receive help in their high school subjects from Hope College tutors. One Friday or Saturday per month, the students meet for three hours to attend workshops on topics such as goal-setting, decision- making, the college search process, career awareness and time management. A senior seminar which meets once a week helps seniors with the college admission process, financial aid and ACT/SAT testing.

A six-week summer residential program on the Hope campus exposes students to the academic and social world of college. Students live in a residence hall, attend classes in the morning, and participate in career internships and elective classes in the afternoon. Evenings are set aside for study sessions and social and cultural activities. This summer's session will begin on Friday, June 13, and continue through Friday, July 25. The theme will be "American Dream/American Reality," pursued as an interdisciplinary project.

"Our hope is that students will learn about the dreams and realities faced by various groups of Americans, such as African Americans, Native Americans and other immigrants," Colburn said. "Students will study literature, history, government, mathematics, science technology, foreign language and the world of work."

The summer program will also include the annual "Images" event, which shares the students' culture, food, attire and talent, and is presented for the students' families, friends and the community at large.

In addition to the structured academic and social activities, the Upward Bound students also volunteer for many community projects, such as raking leaves and painting homes for the elderly, and Project Pride. They also hold several fund-raisers throughout the year to raise money for their cultural enrichment and college scholarship funds.

Even though the program continues to have the benefit of federal support, Colburn noted, the ongoing drive for scholarship assistance for the individual students is crucial. For most of those who don't pursue or stay in college, she said, the primary issue is generally cost. "So we are always seeking out financial aid possibilities," she said.