Local high school student Renato Recillas, who is a junior at Fennville High School and a participant in the Hope College TRIO Upward Bound program, has been selected for the National Student Leadership Congress (NSLC) that will take place in Washington, D.C., in June.
The annual event is hosted by the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE), a national non-profit organization dedicated to increasing access to college for all, particularly for those students served by the Federal TRIO Programs. Recillas will be among 150 TRIO high school students from around the country who are members of the graduating classes of 2024 and 2025 who will engage in community service activities, develop their leadership and public speaking skills, learn how to manage, and motivate a team, and build confidence in their ability to communicate effectively.
“Renato is open to the learning process. He consistently seeks challenging learning opportunities and is open to personal and academic growth,” said Andrea Mireles, who is director of Hope College TRIO Upward Bound. “TRIO Upward Bound staff supports Renato's participation in the National Student Leadership Congress without hesitation! TRIO and the country as a whole will benefit from his gained self-awareness and developed skills to maximize his leadership abilities. He will flourish amongst the nuances of the Capitol and the NSLC experience.”
The rigorous, six-day NSLC program for TRIO Upward Bound, Upward Bound Math-Science, and Talent Search students provides an opportunity for the participants to learn about the workings of government and how policies are made. NSLC also requires students to research and analyze complex issues, and then develop well-reasoned arguments to support their positions, emphasizing improving their critical thinking skills and ability to evaluate information and sources. NSLC includes a mock congress competition, a day on Capitol Hill, and several other intensive learning experiences.
“Participating in NSLC is a valuable experience that can help students develop important skills and knowledge that will serve them well in their academic, personal, and professional lives,” said Maureen Hoyler, president of COE. “The mock congress requires students to work together to develop policies and legislation, which can help students improve their teamwork and collaboration skills, skills that are essential in many areas of life.”
The June 10-15 conference will mark Recillas’s first time in Washington, D.C. A class trip had been planned when he was in eighth grade, but was canceled because of the global COVID-19 pandemic. He’s understandably looking forward to visiting the city at last — but noted that he was especially drawn to the conference for the opportunity to learn more about both how government works and his own interests as he considers what his future might become.
“I’m not sure what I want to do after high school, but politics, law and government have always interested me,” he said.
“I’m excited to go the Capitol and be able to meet some of the senators and representatives and be able to talk with them,” Recillas said. “I’m also looking forward to the opportunity to meet with alumni of Upward Bound programs — from around the country — who work in the capital, and hear their stories and what they’re doing now.”
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. It enrolls 92 students each year from the Holland, West Ottawa and Fennville school districts, and includes academic-year and residential summer components.
While the program’s focus is on academic advising and support, it also continually offers personal and career advising as well as involvement in cultural and recreational activities. Recillas, who joined Hope College TRIO Upward Bound in 2020, said that he has appreciated the holistic approach.
“My whole time here has been a journey to grow as a person,” he said.
“When I started, I thought that the program was just about going to college, but it’s more than that,” Recillas said. “It’s about opening doors and opportunities to students from different backgrounds who might not have had the opportunities otherwise.”
Reflecting in mid-April on his time with the Hope program, he cited a presentation earlier in the month by Dr. Kalisha Morin, who described her path to a career in dentistry.
“It was really inspiring,” he said. “It showed that no matter what you want to do and where you come from, there’s always a way to do it.”
Hope College TRIO Upward Bound began in 1968, and is the longest-running Upward Bound program at a private college in the country. It has received federal funding through the U.S. Department of Education for its entire 55 years, with its newest five-year grant going into effect on June 1. Nationwide, TRIO Upward Bound began as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty with the Educational Opportunity Act of 1964.
More information about the Federal TRIO programs, the NSLC and additional student opportunities for TRIO students is available at coenet.org
More about Hope College TRIO Upward Bound is available at hope.edu/upward-bound