Upward Bound Shows D.C. Students a Path to College
Upward Bound Shows D.C. Students a Path to CollegeMaria Eugenia Alcón-Heraux, Director, Communications
When people hear the words “College Board,” they usually think of the SAT or the Advanced Placement Program. But there’s another College Board program that deserves some attention: the Upward Bound program in Washington, D.C.
For the last 17 years, the College Board has been hosting 110 students —75 percent low income, 100 percent African American — in Upward Bound, its four-year college planning program. Students from Anacostia, Ballou, and HD Woodson high schools participate in an intensive summer program and weekly tutoring to help them stay on track for college.
“To see students’ eyes widen with amazement when they first step on a college campus, travel to other states for college tours, explore career opportunities they never knew existed, and participate in cultural activities, is a heartwarming experience,” said Marlene Guy, director of the Upward Bound Program. “Knowing that we are providing youth with opportunities that they might not otherwise have without Upward Bound continues to reaffirm my purpose.”
In 2013, an average of 79 percent of students who consistently participated in the Upward Bound program went to college in the fall immediately following their high school graduation. The same could be said for only 45.5 percent of low-income students nationally, and 51.9 percent of students in D.C. schools (both public and private). Upward Bound’s six-year college graduation rate for the classes of 2006 and 2007 was 46 percent, which is on par with the national average for low-income, underrepresented students.
One of those college-going students is Mariah Green, valedictorian of her class at HD Woodson High School, who graduated from the program and got into her dream school, Temple University. As part of the program, she was able to visit more than 20 colleges and find out which would be the best fit.
“Upward Bound helped me with essay-writing and presentation skills,” said Mariah. “I believe I wouldn’t have had the confidence to apply to the colleges I did if it wasn’t for the program.”
Upward Bound focuses on academic-skill enhancement and social development through after-school and Saturday academies. Students also attend rigorous six-week summer classes, individual and group college planning, career enrichment experiences, and cultural experiential excursions.
Students are referred by DCPS and complete an application. Each year, the program receives an average of 70 applications for about 20–25 spots for ninth- and 10th-graders.
Mariah says the program taught her what to expect in college and how to search for scholarships — a skill that has really paid off. She’ll be attending Temple this fall with the help of two scholarships and has very little to pay out of pocket. She hopes to go into the sports and wellness field and major in kinesiology.
“I am so happy I got into Upward Bound! I feel I’m prepared, and I know there are resources to help me succeed.”