Cal State San Bernardino’s Upward Bound program will prepare hundreds of local high school students for college for at least another five years.
Last month, the U.S. Department of Education renewed CSUSB’s two grants for the program totaling more than $2.6 million.
Upward Bound programs all across the country, including CSUSB’s, assist low-income, first-generation high school students to acquire the knowledge and skills they need to access and succeed in college. The federally funded program is designed to increase both the high school graduation and college completion rates of this demographic.
Some of the services the program offers include tutoring, academic advising, skill building, personal development and leadership activities, college campus visits, assistance with the college and financial aid application process, community service, and a Summer University program, which allows students to focus on specific academic areas to ensure college readiness.
CSUSB’s existing grant expired on May 31. So when the news came just weeks before it was due to expire, Stephen Villaseñor, director of CSUSB’s Upward Bound program, was elated.
“This is wonderful news not only for the high schools we serve, but for the university as a whole,” said Villasenor. “Without approval of renewed funding, the program would have been shut down.”
The Department of Education awarded two grants to CSUSB, each for $1,312,500 to assist students in both the San Bernardino and Rialto school districts, which together will serve about 100-140 students per year. The grants were increased by $25,000 from the previous grants.
“I very much appreciate the hard work that Stephen and the Upward Bound staff have done to ensure our grant submissions were strong and competitive,” said Olivia Rosas, CSUSB associate vice president of enrollment services.
In the past, CSUSB’s Upward Bound Program has served 100 high school students from low-income families from the San Bernardino and Rialto school districts. Although the program had existed at CSUSB for more than 20 years through 2003, funding ended and the program ceased for several years until 2007 when funding was secured again through the U.S. Department of Education’s $2 million grant.
“When I got the news about the five-year grant renewal, I was so happy for our students, excited for the university and proud of my colleagues,” said Villaseñor.
Stacey Lewis, who participated in Upward Bound as a Pacific High School freshman, is set to begin his college studies at CSUSB this fall. He said he may not have pursued college nor have been eligible for a four-year university without the experience of Upward Bound.
“I didn’t know anything about college other than my mom always telling me to strive for college,” said the 17-year-old, who plans to major in psychology. He remembers not being interested in the program, but went at his mother’s insistence.
However, Lewis said that the moment he attended the first session at CSUSB, he felt welcome and included.
“Through UB, I was surrounded by others who were all struggling like me,” he said. “It helped tremendously to be around people with the same mission of preparing for college. All the tutoring, educational field trips to museums and other university campuses helped me tremendously.
“I had such a great experience and got to meet so many new people through the UB program,” said Lewis. “I’m ready to start a new chapter in my life and I highly recommend it to other high school students.”
Statistics from the U.S. Department of Education indicate that more than 75 percent of students who participate in Upward Bound programs attend college in the fall immediately following high school graduation. That number rose to more than 90 percent for those who participated in the program for three or more years or through high school graduation.
Furthermore, Upward Bound students were 50 percent more likely to attain a bachelor’s degree than their counterparts.
Stephanie Luna, an 18-year-old Eisenhower High School graduate, also attributes Upward Bound with improving her academic skills, pushing her to work harder to improve her grades and providing new knowledge that prepared her for college. As a result, she received acceptance letters from as many as eight California universities and chose UCLA to pursue a pre-med degree in neuroscience.
“I got to meet a lot of amazing people who had the same background as me and had similar family situations,” said the Rialto resident. “I felt that we got stronger support from each other — almost like one big family!”
Luna’s sister, Jennifer, who will be a senior at Eisenhower High School this fall, is following in her sister’s footsteps and is also enrolled in the Upward Bound program.
Visit the Upward Bound website or contact Stephen Villaseñor at (909) 537-5023 for more information.
For more information about Cal State San Bernardino, contact the university’s Office of Public Affairs at (909) 537-5007 and visit news.csusb.edu.