Upward Bound breaks down barriers

  • UMES program receives 5-year funding extension

    Friday, September 22, 2017
    Kyra Terrell benefited from Upward Bound

    Upward Bound, a federal program synonymous with the University of Maryland Eastern Shore for more than half a century, is positioned to continue making a college education a realistic goal for first-generation and low-income students. 

    Dr. Nicolé L. Gale, UMES' Upward Bound program director, says the U.S. Department of Education recently notified the university it qualified for a grant extension worth $2.5 million over the next five years. 

    The money, Gale says, will enable her staff to continue and expand its year-round activities designed to make post-secondary education appealing to Lower Shore high school students who might not see college as an option after graduation. 

    Gale calls the grant extension news a reaffirmation of UMES efforts over the years working with students from public schools in Somerset and Wicomico counties - and starting this year in Worcester County. 

    Students from Pocomoke High School are now eligible to join counterparts from Washington High in Princess Anne, Crisfield High as well as Salisbury's three high schools, James M. Bennett, Parkside and Wicomico. 

    The grant, which can support about 114 students annually at UMES, is used to fund academic enrichment programs, the popular “Saturday Academy,” after-school tutoring and cultural and educational trips. 

    Gale stays in touch with Upward Bound participants whom she proudly points to as successful, productive adults.

    Inaugural Upward Bound class at Maryland State College 1966

    Tana Ellis took part in the program as a Parkside High student in the late 1980s and says “I would not be on the track I followed had I not gone.” 

    Ellis is a vice principal at Prince Street Elementary School in Salisbury, where one of her annual projects is organizing field trips to local colleges to introduce students to higher education. 

    Upward Bound “affected me as an educator,” Ellis said. “I want kids in my building to have that experience.” 

    Ellis recalls learning to speed read - she still has the certificate - as well as memorable recreational outings, like snow skiing, horseback riding and canoeing - activities her family would not have been able to afford. 

    Upward Bound participants spend six weeks on the UMES campus in the summer taking math, science, English and a foreign language classes supplemented by such enrichment activities as financial literacy, art, music, computers - and even learning to play golf. 

    Participants also get counseling on college application strategies and college entrance exams preparation. 

    Upward Bound participants are not obligated to attend or promised admission to UMES, although some do enroll and graduate. 

    Kyra Terrell, who anticipates graduating from UMES in December 2018 with a degree in rehabilitation psychology, was a three-year Upward Bound participant as a Washington High student. 

    “My experience was really great,” Terrell said. “It opened up my eyes to a lot of different opportunities and the different things you can do if you go to college.” 

    Terrell, a dean's list student, ultimately opted to enroll in UMES because it was her late mother's alma mater and employer. 

    The summer prior to her senior year in high school, UMES' Upward Bound program sent her to Xavier University of Louisiana, where she took enrichment classes and learned strategies for taking college admissions tests. 

    Among benefits Upward Bound students get is financial assistance to pay for college applications and testing, which Terrell said she “really appreciated.” 

    She tells high school students who ask her about Upward Bound “that if you're able to get in the program, take it seriously.” 

    UMES' Summer Academy participants also can work alongside university employees in a variety of settings and visit with faculty to see what college life up close is like. 

    “It's so powerful to take kids outside their community and show them the world,” Ellis said. “That's what it did for me.” 

    Dr. Kirkland Hall, an instructor in UMES' kinesiology department, was in the charter group of Upward Bound participants at UMES during the mid-1960s. 

    He credits Upward Bound with helping him focus on pursuing an education after high school, and like Ellis, establishing a career path in becoming an educator. 

    Glendola Stevens' son, Alexander, now 37, participated in UMES' Upward Bound program as a teen. 

    “He had a ball,” Stevens said, although, “at first, he didn't want to go.” 

    Upward Bound, she said, “allowed my child to explore new horizons so he wouldn't be stagnant.” 

    Stevens said her son's participation “taught him survival skills” and put him contact with “positive role models and a positive environment.” 

    “It also helped instill in me the importance of parent participation,” she said.