Upward Bound returns after 15 years


Stayley Drenning

Just keep walking. Upward Bound members traveled to Penn State University on Saturday April 22. Students explored engineering programs, and ended the trip with ice cream from the creamery.

Upward Bound is a federally funded program that provides ninth through twelfth graders who are first-generation college students, access to college campus tours, tutoring and assistance with financial support that prepares students to graduate high school and enroll in and complete a two or four-year college degree. 

Mickey Bellet is the Transitional Manager for Upward Bound. Bellet individually met with students who teachers and counselors recommended for the program with their guidance counselor to explain the program’s purpose and how to apply.  

“When we first came into the school district, we were given a list of names of students who were recommended by counselors or by their teachers,” Bellet said. “We did three different presentations. One of them was a group, which was just like a casting call because anyone could come. Then, there was another group of students that were in some organizations or were with other groups of students who Mr. Yingling and Mr. Neely thought should have a presentation as well. And then that was combined with that list of students who were referred by teachers, guidance and by staff people in the school.”  

Bellet wrote the grant in order to get the program back in the school district.

“These grants are written by institutions or community organizations. The original grant that served the school was written by a team of people at St. Francis University, 15 years ago, which was when 2,008 grants refunded the federal government, gave people writing these grants the incentive. When they give you an incentive, it’s more like saying you need to do this. It’s not a choice,” Bellet said.

According to Bellet, most of the students in the program don’t know each other due to certain students being accepted. Additionally, students from other local Upward Bound programs are introduced to each other during the summer residential program. Students have the opportunity to stay on a college campus for anywhere from two to six weeks participating in classes in a college setting, campus tours, and trips to local cities. 

“In my opinion, that’s one of the coolest things because you get in a little bubble and you have a comfort zone and everybody’s in the same classes that you’re in and you see them every day. And this gives people a chance to meet up and meet new people,” Bellet said. 

Besides getting to watch the students grow, she is most looking forward to team building and leadership development amongst the students, according to Bellet. 

“The fun for me every year is getting to plan programming, activities, what the summer’s going to look like, and the trips that we’re going to take. By looking at the list of suggestions from students, we’re able to see what they’d like to do and then we take that and then go to the next level,” Bellet said. 

According to Bellet, being able to reconnect and work with young adults who go through the program and exceed their potential is one of her favorite parts about the program. 

“The coolest thing for me about this program is watching somebody as a ninth grader, for example, who comes in and he or she’s unsure of what their future might look like and then through conversations, through visits, through questions, through the summer process, we watch them graduate from high school and be successful as college students or be successful as adults,” Bellet said.

K.I.N.D. manager Jamie Colman was involved in Upward Bound in high school for three years. She would later work with the program for nine years. 

“I was so crazy that I begged our director to let me come back as a tutor, and then I was a tutor for several years after that. And then eventually I taught English during the academic components on Saturdays. Eventually, I also became the resident director of the summer program,” Colman said. 

Upward Bound provides students with multiple educational opportunities that might not have been available to them without the program. Colman participated in classes that got her ahead for the next school year and was involved in workshops on a variety of topics. Colman joined Upward Bound during her sophomore year of high school. 

“As a student and as a staff member, you go to different plays, musicals, that kind of thing, but then also go try different things and different types of restaurants. We went to an Ethiopian restaurant, which was truly a great experience. I was given experiences that I wouldn’t necessarily have had if I had not had Upward Bound,” Colman said. 

Colman also took advantage of the tutoring Upward Bound offered. A lot of her tutors were in college, so they had just recently gone through the experience of high school and still had information semi-fresh in their minds. According to Colman, she was able to absorb as much information as she could

“I loved every bit of it. I loved having you know tutors available to kind of help me with stuff. Not only did they help me with classwork and things like that, but they helped advise me in terms of my directions and life and where I was going and what I wanted to do,” Colman said. 

According to Colman, she is proud of her roots, but growing up she knew she wanted to do something for herself, but just didn’t know how to go about it. The Upward Bound program provided her with assistance in making those decisions. 

“Honestly, without that program, I don’t think I’d be sitting here right now. That program legit saved my life,” Colman said. 

According to Colman, the program was life-changing and encourages new acceptees to take advantage of every opportunity it provides. 

“Be as open as you can be to every aspect of the program and absorb it, absorb it in every possible capacity that you can and give it the chance that it deserves because it’s really an amazing program,” Colman said. 

On Saturday, April 22, students in the program attended a field trip to Penn State University. While on campus, students explored different engineering programs offered and completed STEM-based activities. Junior Nahjay Hardy attended the trip. 

“I think the engineering programs were very interesting, but I don’t think I would ever take an actual class of it,” Hardy said. 

Hardy wants to go to college after high school to become a therapist. She plans on majoring in social work and then minoring in other fields involving counseling.

“A way to succeed at those things is possibly just keep doing what I’m doing now just like getting to school on time, make sure my classes are going well, and apply for a whole lot of scholarships and grants,” Hardy said. 

Hardy encourages students to apply for the program. 

“If you’re planning on going to college, it’s a good program to push you in a new direction,” Hardy said. 

Freshman Zyair Carter was accepted into the program and also attended the trip on April 22. According to Carter, being able to talk to college students about their experiences was the most impactful part of his trip. 

Being recommended and accepted into Upward Bound means a lot to me because it’s a great opportunity that not everyone gets. I decided to apply for this program after I was recommended because I knew I wanted to go to college and I thought this would be a great way to help me get there,” Cater said. 

Sophomore Kira Boyles plans to go into the military after high school. 

“I look forward to going to college to become a pediatric nurse,” Boyles said.