Upward Bound Introduces College Life to Local Teens

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – It was just last summer when Programs for Academic Student Support (PASS) at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi received a $2.5 million grant to establish Upward Bound. With a major goal of preparing young students to succeed in high school and college, Upward Bound includes year-round academic assistance to 120 low-income local students in households in which neither parent has a bachelor’s degree, and in the summer, it also includes a Summer Academy Program.

“The Upward Bound program is truly life changing for not only the students, but for their families as well,” said April Jasso, director of Upward Bound at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

At this year’s Summer Academy Program, nearly 60 high school students from Foy H. Moody, West Oso, Solomon Coles, and Roy Miller attended the six-week program, which included rigorous online curriculum in math, science, and English, along with ACT/SAT prep courses taught by Islander undergraduate and graduate students. Career exploration, job shadowing, and mentoring by professionals was also included. Students got a taste of college life as they were invited to live in Island University dorms for a full week.

“The academic and personal growth I saw in these students through the program was incredible,” said Jasso. “Not only did their grades improve, but they also became more confident.”

The hard work and dedication of the students was commemorated by an end-of-program banquet, which was attended by more than 100 family members. Program participants were given a special medallion for completing the Summer Academy that they are encouraged to wear at their school high graduation ceremony.

Upward Bound’s final summer activity was a trip to Dallas, which included a tour of four major universities. Students also visited historical sites such as the George W. Bush Presidential Library and the Sixth Floor Museum, which examines the life and legacy of President John F. Kennedy. Students ended their trip with a day at Six Flags.

“Without this program, students likely would not have exposure to so many college campuses; let alone ones miles from home,” said Jasso. “We feel the more we open their eyes to these possibilities, the more they will learn to dream big.”

The $2.5 million grant, courtesy of the United States Department of Education, is to be spread out over five-years. Future program plans include monthly academic/tutoring sessions, community service events, and exposure to robotics and other-hands on STEM-focused activities.