Disadvantaged students in western Garfield County will soon have a place to go for help to finish high school, explore career options, apply to colleges and secure financial aid.
Colorado Mountain College received a $1.25 million grant to extend Upward Bound services to students at three area high schools over the next five years.
Upward Bound is a federally funded TRIO program through the U.S. Department of Education. Programs include Student Support Services, Upward Bound, Math-Science Upward Bound and Veterans Upward Bound.
While more than 170 Upward Bound programs were not funded during the most recent round of grant applications, Colorado Mountain College also received $1.31 million to continue its services in Lake and Eagle counties for the next five years.
Rifle program plans to build on successes in Lake, Eagle counties
According to Mark McCabe, assistant vice president of student affairs for the college, CMC's funding for Upward Bound was extended because the existing program has clearly demonstrated "measurable and significant gains" in student achievement during its first five years.
Debi Martinez-Brun, the college's Upward Bound director for Lake and Eagle counties, said that 85 percent of those counties' program participants in the first five-year grant period graduated from high school, surpassing the statewide on-time graduation rate of 75 percent.
Under the direction of Krisan Crow, recently appointed Upward Bound director for western Garfield County, the program will now reach an additional 60 students through the college's campus in Rifle.
Crow has worked with TRIO programs for eight years at Colorado State University, the University of Wyoming and seven Wyoming community colleges.
"These programs change not only the students' lives," she said, "but change their families' lives by showing them that college is possible."
Program helps students stay in school, continue to college
During the 2010-11 school year, 12,744 high school youth in Colorado dropped out, according to the Colorado Department of Education. The dropout rate was highest among students with disadvantaged backgrounds. Upward Bound seeks out these students when they're entering ninth or 10th grade and works with them to stay in school and continue on to a higher education institution.
The new Upward Bound program for western Garfield County will target under-served students at Rifle, Coal Ridge and Grand Valley high schools, where rates of college attendance hover around 34 to 37 percent, significantly lower than the Colorado average of 46 percent.
Through the program at CMC in Rifle, qualifying students receive free tutoring, ACT preparation, personal and academic counseling, access to special workshops and high school credit for attending a summer academy.