RIFLE, Colorado - Nationally, more than 170 Upward Bound programs lost funding during the most recent round of grant applications. Colorado Mountain College not only weathered the federal cuts to receive $1.31 million to continue services in Lake and Eagle counties for the next five years, but also received a second, new $1.25 million grant to extend Upward Bound services to students in western Garfield County.
Upward Bound is a federally funded TRIO program under the U.S. Department of Education. TRIO programs include Student Support Services, Upward Bound, Math-Science Upward Bound and Veterans Upward Bound.
Locally administered by Colorado Mountain College, Upward Bound is designed to empower disadvantaged students to finish high school and succeed in college. The program helps students explore career options, apply to colleges and secure financial aid.
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, Colorado Mountain College's Upward Bound director for Lake and Eagle counties, said 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.
These measurable strides made by students in Lake and Eagle counties helped tip the balance for the college to secure the second grant of $1.25 million to expand services into Garfield County over the next five years.
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 Colorado Mountain College's campus in Rifle.
During the 2010-11 school year, 12,744 youth in Colorado dropped out of high school, according to the Colorado Department of Education. Not surprisingly, 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 helps shift their trajectories toward positive achievement, with dramatic results.
The new Upward Bound program for western Garfield County will target underserved students at Coal Ridge, Rifle 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 Upward Bound, students are empowered to seek out the academic resources, financial aid and community connections they need to succeed.
For many disadvantaged students, the cost of college creates a seemingly insurmountable hurdle. And it doesn't help that most first-generation students - students whose family members have not completed a four-year college degree - have no model for seeking scholarships, taking the ACT test or researching and applying to colleges. Upward Bound helps to bridge the gap.
In addition to tutoring in core subjects, Upward Bound introduces students to the campus experience through college field trips, and guides them through the labyrinth of financial aid opportunities. The program also provides an academic immersion experience at the Summer Academy, an intensive six-week program where students learn subject material and develop study habits.
"Upward Bound opens doors," said Sara Niswonger, whose daughter, Emma, and son, Cody, have both been involved in the program at Eagle Valley High School in Gypsum.
"They've learned about colleges and scholarships. And the program has really pushed them. This year, my daughter, a senior, got her first academic letter, for an overall 3.75 GPA. And my son, who is only a sophomore, told his sister after a college trip that he thinks he wants to get a master's."
Crow, the Upward Bound director for western Garfield County, 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."
Crow said she is especially eager to work collaboratively with Garfield Re-2 school district and Garfield District 16 high schools by providing additional services to support and assist students with reaching their potential in high school and beyond.
Upward Bound is open to students in the ninth or 10th grade who are U.S. citizens or have permanent residency. Applicants must meet low-income guidelines, and neither parent (or guardian) can have completed a four-year college degree.
"These are students who want to further their education," said Martinez-Brun. "Their determination and sincere interest in pursuing academic success is inspiring. And for me, personally, it's rewarding to collaborate with parents, the school district staff and the community to help these deserving students achieve their goals."
Through CMC's expanded Upward Bound program in western Garfield County, qualifying students can receive free tutoring, ACT preparation, personal and academic counseling, access to special workshops and high school credit for attending the summer academy.
To learn more, or to refer a student to Upward Bound in western Garfield County, contact Crow at firstname.lastname@example.org.