Upward Bound takes higher education aloft at USU-CEU
For Justin Orth, what he is doing right now makes a real difference in the world.
And the same is true for Megan Woods and Trinity Gibbs, too.
What they are doing is helping students succeed beyond expectations.
The three are part of a program called Upward Bound, which helps first generation college students to get on track early in their schooling.
The Upward Bound program at USU Eastern is one of over 700 Upward Bound programs nationwide that help eligible high school students achieve their dreams of going on to and being successful in higher education. The students that Upward Bound serves must come from low-income families (with incomes at or below 150 percent of poverty) and/or are first generation potential college students (neither parent/guardian has earned a bachelor's degree).
The office they work out of may be housed at USU Eastern in the Leavitt Center, but the emphasis of the program that Orth and his staff operate is only there to make students get the help they need, and it doesn't matter where.
"We help students from Carbon, Emery and Grand counties," said Orth in an interview at his office last week. "We start early with students (as early in some cases as junior high) who want to go to college. And who we are targeted to help are those who come from families who have never had anyone go to college. In this three county area that means 84 percent of high school students qualify for the program."
The program focus' on enrollment and retention issues. All colleges face the fact that many students enroll, a fewer number than those figures finish one year and many fewer ever graduate with a bachelors degree, an associate degree or a certificate. Upward Bound is situated to step in and help hold the line on some of those who might pull out,
"We only have so much room in the program," stated Orth. "In fact we have a waiting list of 20-30 who want in. But we just as well could have 100."
At present USU Eastern's retention rate is 33 percent and for many other colleges and universities that is about par. But for students in the Upward Bound program, 85 percent finish school with either an associate degree or a bachelors degree.
"We start to recruit in the ninth and 10th grade and then follow those that join our program six years after graduation to see how successful we are," said Orth. "But they don't need to graduate from here or even go to school here. We have 15 students we have been working with on the USU Eastern campus this year, but there are many at other schools too."
The program begins with a tutoring program in high schools where students learn to study correctly. The program is supported by high school counselors throughout the three county area.
Then there is a summer program at USU Eastern where students get to live in the dorms for a couple of weeks and learn about education. They get concurrent enrollment credit for the courses they take. During the summer, 30 students participate in the six-week residential program. The summer program engages participants in dynamic academic classes in Literature and Composition, Mathematics, Science, Computer Applications, Study Skills, and Foreign Language. There are also intensive experiential seminars in a wide range of challenging and inspiring subjects.
In addition, the summer program offers a host of afternoon workshops, career explorations, individual and group counseling, and extensive training in group dynamics, communications and collaborative learning skills. It also provides creative problem-solving and recreational and cultural activities. The summer program immerses participants in a socially conscious, supportive and self-governing community committed to the highest achievements of each of its members.
"What we are giving them is the tools to be successful," said Orth. "Right up through their SAT and ACT tests."
Incentives? Well the students do get a small paycheck each month once they are in the program. Ninth through 12th graders that are involved in the program get $30 per month.
"What we are interested in at that age is cultural enrichment," said Orth. "For instance 87 percent of the kids in our program have never been out of Utah."
The idea is to expand horizons so they can prepare for the future and for jobs that they can fulfill with the skills they will learn in school.
As for community, Orth says that parental involvement is not necessary, in fact parents seldom get involved. But he also says that when parents do take an interest in what is being done with their kids through the program the success rate is almost "100 percent."
Orth and his staff are on soft money, provided by grants from the U.S. Department of Education. The original program was set up for five years and that ends this year,