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Upward Bound: Preparing high school students for college

Ruth Young Tyler | 8/11/2017, 6 a.m.
After six-weeks of intensive sessions and college level coursework, 49 Baltimore County high school students graduated from the Community College ...
Baltimore County students completed a six-week college readiness program hosted by Upward Bound. Many of the students are the first generation to attend college. (Seated, left to right) Jamil Charles, Lucy Ekeh, Adia Mason and Milan Marseille. (Standing, left to right) Dana Thomas, Sherron Edwards, Director of CCBC Upward Bound; and Rico Dorsey, a summer bridge student. Ruth Young Tyler

After six-weeks of intensive sessions and college level coursework, 49 Baltimore County high school students graduated from the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) Upward Bound program on July 26, 2017 in hopes of matriculating into college.

From June 18 to July 26, the students participated in program at CCBC and lived on the campus of University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMUC).

Upward Bound is a nationwide, grant funded educational program, authorized by the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965. At the time, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the legislation into law, it was intended to “strengthen the educational resources of our colleges and universities and to provide financial assistance for students in postsecondary and higher education.” Since 1965 the HEA has been reauthorized nine times.

Coordinated by CCBC, the Upward Bound program was initiated in 1987 and serves students who have demonstrated academic potential. The program is in its 30th year of promoting the development of students’ basic academic skills, cultural enrichment and the motivation to successfully matriculate to and graduate from a four-year college. To ensure the students’ highest success rate, the scholars are required to participate in all of the program’s activities.

Jamil Charles, 17, a third year Upward Bound scholar who plans to study nuclear or electrical engineering and to attend Alabama State or the University of Maryland on a full academic scholarship.

Intellectually daring and with a wise perspective on life, Charles said, “I don’t want my mother to pay a dime for college. It’s not an option about going to college, it’s a must.”

With a 3.8 grade point average, Charles is a member of the National Honor Society, executive treasure for student government association at Owings Mills High School and plays football, lacrosse and wrestles during the school year.

According to Sherron Edwards, director, CCBC Upward Bound, two thirds of the students must meet the income guidelines and be first generation to attend college— neither parent may have Bachelor’s degree. The remaining third may exceed the income guidelines or may not be first generation college graduates.

“We track students for six years after they’ve completed the program,” said Edwards.

The Department of Education requires an annual performance report detailing students’ coursework, grades, grade point average and test results, according to Edwards. During the Upward Bound matriculation and coaching process, Edwards reviews students’ assessments of their actual reading level versus “what their report card says.”

Although excited about attending Upward Bound in his freshman year, Dana Thomas’ refocused his attention to improve his grade point average. At the end of the first quarter of his sophomore year, he earned straight A’s.

“I was ecstatic about being eligible,” he said.

With a broad smile and dread locks reaching his shoulders, the 17 year old rising senior at Landsdowne High School laughed as he recalled how he pretended to be a Power Ranger. Now the aspiring actor and model aspires to study theater and attend Maryland Institute College of Art.

“I’m finding out who I am and how to support myself. Anybody who wants better for themselves should be part of Upward Bound,” he said. “They give you the tools you need to succeed, you just have to use them.”