The news that Hope College TRIO Upward Bound had again received federal funding — continuing a streak unbroken since the program began in 1968 — was definitely welcome, but when the news arrived the staff was especially focused on final preparations for the program’s soon-to-begin summer session (June 19 – July 28).
Hope College TRIO 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 new grant from the U.S. Department of Education, which totals $378,121, goes into effect starting June 1, 2018, and will provide support through May 2023.
This summer’s theme is the “The Land of TRIO: The UB Way,” based on the yellow brick road the characters travel in the Wizard of Oz. It emphasizes helping students with their journey whether smooth or rough.
“Your road to success is going to be paved with both failures and successes, and Upward Bound’s goal is to provide you with the tools to cope with both, and to prepare for success in college,” said Elizabeth Colburn, director of Hope College Upward Bound.
Beyond the roadway metaphor, Colburn sees in the familiar Oz story a mirror in the central characters’ growth. Students will start out with varying degrees of confidence, but across their travels and by working together they learn to overcome obstacles and develop and demonstrate the abilities that help them reach their goals.
“In reality the characters in Oz had what they needed all along,” Colburn said. “They just didn’t think that they did. Our students have what they need, too. They just need to develop it and believe in it.”
The program enrolls 90 students each year from the Holland, West Ottawa and Fennville school districts. Since it began, more than 2,000 students have participated. The program’s success rate in enrolling students in post-secondary institutions averages between 85 and 90 percent. On average, 81 percent of the students who entered post-secondary institutions in the last five years are still enrolled or have graduated.
While the focus of Upward Bound is on academic advising and support, the program also continually offers personal and career advising as well as involvement in cultural and recreational activities.
Throughout the academic year, students come to Hope a minimum of 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, financial literacy, and time management. A senior seminar, which meets once a week, helps seniors with the college admission and financial aid process, as well as scholarship research and applications. Several ACT/SAT test preparation workshops are held throughout the year.
The 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, work in grade-level teams on project based learning (PBL) that apply what they are learning, and participate in career classes, internships, and college visits. Evenings are set aside for study sessions and social and cultural activities.
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.
Nationwide, TRIO Upward Bound began as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty with the Educational Opportunity Act of 1964.
Hope College TRIO Upward Bound is one of the oldest continuous Upward Bound programs in the country. It has been administered since its inception through Hope, which provides support beyond the federal funding. In addition, 40 to 50 Hope students work with the program throughout the year as tutors, office assistants and van drivers. Hope College TRIO Upward Bound also receives financial support from the Greater Ottawa County United Way.
The Hope program 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) and Step Up programs provide academic and cultural enrichment for at-risk first- through fifth-grade students and middle-school students respectively.