Rodney Witherspoon always knew he was going to go to college. But, as a first-generation college student, he didn’t know how he was going to get there or how to pay for it. That was until he discovered the Upward Bound program during his freshman year at Westchester Enriched Sciences Magnet, a partner in the Loyola Marymount University Family of Schools.
"I’ve always felt like Upward Bound found me, I just went along with it," said Witherspoon, who is now a freshman political science major at U.C. Berkeley. "I truly don’t know what I would have done without the program. It helps uplift a community and prevent a cycle of ignorance."
Upward Bound is a federally funded program that increases high school graduation rates and college enrollment rates among first-generation, low-income students. LMU’s program works with high school students from Westchester Enriched Sciences Magnet (formerly Westchester High School) and serves up to 50 students each year. During the academic year, the students in the program are offered academic advising and college counseling, instructional and supplemental tutoring in math and English, and enrichment activities such as attending a play, museum, concert or sporting event.
"There is a whole wide world out there that some students don’t know is accessible to them," said Norma Romero, director of LMU’s Upward Bound program. "We always tell our students, ‘It’s not just what you learn, but who you become.’ "
Upward Bound also includes a six-week residential summer program when the high school students live on the LMU campus. During their stay, the students take college prep and enrichment courses, attend financial aid and admissions seminars, and receive tutoring and mentoring support from LMU students and staff. Students also participate in weekly community service activities.
"We want to demystify the college experience," Romero said. "We hope the students begin to see themselves in college and to feel like they belong there just like everybody else."
Established through the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, Upward Bound, sometimes grouped with Talent Search and Student Support Services as a TRIO program, has more than 900 programs across the country. In fall 2012, LMU's Upward Bound program will have completed year five of five of its $1.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.