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

The new grant, which totals more than $1,835,000, goes into effect starting June 1, 2013, and will provide support through May 2018, even enabling the program to increase the number of students it serves.  Hope College Upward Bound has received funding through the federal TRIO program every year since the Hope program began in 1968.

Hope College 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.

The program is currently funded for 75 students each year, which will increase to 85 annually with the new support.  Elizabeth Colburn (pictured), director of Hope College Upward Bound, noted that the program consistently has a substantial waiting list, 30 for this coming fall.

The program works with students from three school districts in Allegan and Ottawa counties, including Holland, West Ottawa and Fennville. The program’s success rate in enrolling students in post-secondary institutions averages between 90 percent and 95 percent; this past year, it was 100 percent.

While 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.

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 Monday, June 18, and continue through Friday, July 27. The theme will be “Fair Trade,” with an emphasis on making interdisciplinary connections.

“The science, English and history curriculum will be integrated together so that the students can see the connections between the classes that they’re taking,” Colburn said.

In addition to the structured academic and social activities, the Upward Bound students also volunteer for community projects, such as watershed clean-up and visiting with the elderly at senior living facilities. They also provide rest stops for the Holland 100 bike tour each summer in order to raise money for their cultural enrichment and college scholarship funds.

Colburn noted that the program benefits from strong parental involvement, a key component in encouraging students to achieve in school.

“We have an active parent group that meets every month,” she said.  “That’s been a welcome addition.  We’ve always encouraged it, but the past few years we’ve really worked at making it an active part of the program.”

Similarly, she said, Upward Bound alumni remain committed to the program—for example, returning to share their experiences and perspective with the current students.

Upward Bound operates as part of a network of programs at the college focused on enhancing young students’ educational attainment.  The Children’s After School Achievement (CASA) program, celebrating its 25th year, provides academic and cultural enrichment for at-risk first- through fifth-grade students.  In recent years, CASA and Upward Bound have worked together to run a “Step Up” program to continue to engage middle-school students who otherwise fall between the two initiatives.

“In those middle-school years, they’re coming to campus twice a week and our Upward Bound students are tutoring them,” Colburn said.

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 more than $120,000 in support of the program each year, as well as a community environment that Colburn noted adds much more.

“We get a lot of support from the faculty and staff—there’s a lot of good collaboration going on with multiple programs at the college,” she said.  “We also have 40 to 50 Hope students working with us throughout the year, as tutors, office assistants and van drivers.  Many of the tutors return year after year, and that makes a good connection for our students as well.”