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FeaturedJune 14, 2024

Above and Beyond with Upward Bound

Written By: Ian Silvester

At the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith, a core commitment states that the university “provides a supportive and inclusive learning environment that propels students to achieve success in their personal and professional lives.” While in some sense that applies to currently enrolled students, it begins even earlier, thanks to the Upward Bound Classic (UBCL) and Upward Bound Math/Science (UBMS) programs affiliated with the university.

Upward Bound is part of the – outreach and student services programs funded through the U.S. Department of Education, designed to identify and help disadvantaged individuals – which emerged from the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 in response to the Lyndon Johnson administration’s War on Poverty. Now in its 60th year of existence, Upward Bound continues to help students progress academically from high school to college and beyond in an effort to break the cycle of poverty.

At AV, the two Upward Bound programs (Classic and Math/Science) have served students for 20 and 17 years, respectively. AV hosts high school students from Crawford, Sebastian, and Scott counties. They are Alma, Cedarville, Hackett, Mansfield, Mulberry, Northside, Van Buren high schools, and the Future School of Fort Smith. Each program is funded to serve 62 low-income, first-generation, 9th-12th grade students as they navigate high school and prepare for college.

“We help students be as successful in high school as they can be so that post-secondary education leads to jobs to help break the cycle of poverty,” explained Christin Staats, executive director of Upward Bound Programs.

Staats and her team set objectives that “are both ambitious and attainable” for their students each year. The programs must submit an Annual Performance Report to the U.S. Department of Education to prove they met the approved grant objective percentages. Both programs accomplished this for the 2022-2023 academic year, and each objective exceeded expectations.

Approved project objective percentages and the actual recorded figures for UBCL and UBMS are below.

  • Academic Performance – Grade Point Average:
    • 83% of students will have a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or better
      • UBCL achieved 94%
      • UBMS achieved 90%
  • Academic Performance on Standardized Tests:
    • 30% of high school seniors will score proficient or better on state assessments in reading, language arts, and math
      • UBCL achieved 42%
      • UBMS achieved 67%
  • High School Retention and Graduation:
    • 95% of students will continue in school for the next academic year, at the next grade level, or will graduate from high school with a diploma
      • UBCL and UBMS both achieved 100%
  • Postsecondary Enrollment:
    • 43% of all current and prior-year students who graduated from high school will enroll in a program of postsecondary education or will have received notification of acceptance to an institution of higher education
      • UBCL achieved 50%
      • UBMS achieved 83%
  • Postsecondary Completion:
    • 25% of students enrolled in a program of postsecondary education will earn either an associate or bachelor’s degree within six years following high school graduation
      • UBCL achieved 61%
      • UBMS achieved 64%

But success isn’t just measured by classroom performance. Success comes from the five full-time staff members behind the scenes who are committed to helping guide students’ education.

“We wouldn’t be successful if it weren’t for the team we have here,” Staats said proudly.

Patricia Hurtado Perez, the UBMS coordinator, is one of those helping students from the eight high schools served by UBCL and UBMS.

Perez is a product of Upward Bound, having gone through the program affiliated with Arkansas Tech. After high school, she knew she wanted to continue her education, opting to come to AV, where she graduated in May 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics with teaching licensure.

Although Staats and Perez will say the goal of any Upward Bound program is for a student to earn their degree and eventually get a well-paying job, education doesn’t end with a bachelor’s degree. In the case of Perez, she also earned her master’s degree in math education in the spring of 2022 from the University of Central Arkansas.

While working with students, Perez said she can connect with them as both a resource and a peer. She wants her journey to be one current and future Upward Bound students can look to for motivation.

“I want them to know that just one degree doesn’t have to be their stopping point,” Perez said. “They are capable of a master’s and beyond for whatever job they’re searching for.”

  • Tags:
  • Upward Bound
  • Trio
  • Upward Bound Classic
  • Upward Bound Math Science

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