$3 Million Grant Provides TAMU-CC Upward Bound Students with College-Readiness Resources

CORPUS CHRISTI, TX – Since 2017, the Upward Bound (UB) program at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi has provided valuable resources like tutoring, scholarship and financial assistance, and college exam preparation to underserved local high school students in their quest to become college-ready.

UB will continue its work thanks to a $3 million grant from the United States Department of Education, which will fund the program for the next five years. UB North and Central serve 120 students from four area high schools – Coles, Miller, Moody, and West Oso – who are designated as low-income and where neither parent holds a bachelor’s degree.

“UB students in our program get to experience college life, cultural and educational trips, and have their high school curriculum delivered by TAMU-CC faculty and staff,” said April Jasso ‘06, TAMU-CC’s UB Director and UB alumna. “This program is important because it provides students with tools and resources to become lifelong learners.”

UB aims to increase the rate at which participants complete their high school education and enroll in and graduate from post-secondary education institutions. The Island University’s Upward Bound has delivered on that goal, boasting an impressive 100% graduation rate for its high school students, with roughly 85% enrolling in post-secondary education the fall semester after high school graduation.

For graduates of the program like Karen Santos ’24, a TAMU-CC bilingual education major, UB made a considerable difference in her academic journey.

“No family member of mine went to college, so I always thought I couldn’t go either. Coming from a low-income family, I didn’t want to put that pressure on my parents,” Santos said. “Upward Bound was there for me, supporting me throughout my entire time in high school. I got help with scholarship applications, which helped build me into the person I am today. I wouldn’t be an Islander if it weren’t for Upward Bound.”

While Upward Bound participants receive various services throughout the school year, a highlight for many students is the six-week Summer Academy held on the Island University campus, including a one-week residential component where students live in campus housing. The weekdays are filled with classes taught by university faculty and teaching assistants who expose UB students to various STEM topics like robotics, nursing, and life sciences, all while reinforcing good study habits.

“My favorite core subject of this Summer Academy would definitely be English with Professor Bernadette Flores,” said Dominique Garcia-Hernandez, a junior at Miller High School. “I also love the nursing lab taught by third-year nursing students here at TAMU-CC.”

Texas Jones, a junior at West Oso High School, said that the Summer Academy has helped build his confidence in his education.

 “The tutoring I have gotten has helped me with my study habits and work ethic, and I feel better prepared not only for college but for my future career,” Jones said.

Outside of their coursework, UB students participate in a variety of extracurricular activities around the Island University like art classes, scavenger hunts, swimming, and use of the campus gym and recreation room. Upon completion of the Summer Academy, a banquet is held to honor the students’ dedication, and they are presented with a medallion to be worn at their school’s graduation ceremony. Students also take a trip that features a mix of entertainment, history, and college tours.

“My message to the high school students who think they can’t make it to college or think they can’t afford it, I can tell you this – Upward Bound will surely change your mind on that,” said Jared Vieyra ‘25, a TAMU-CC mechanical engineering major and UB alumnus.

This year’s Summer Academy trip will take the Upward Bound students to Galveston, where students will tour Texas A&M University-Galveston and visit Houston-area museums along with the NASA Space Center.

“I am so proud of this program; It opens doors that one would think were impossible and provides a positive learning environment with unforgettable memories,” Jasso said. “This program enhances our student’s self-esteem and prepares them for meaningful interaction with the world around them.”

For more information on the Upward Bound program, visit upwardbound.tamucc.edu.