By Anita Little
Upward Bound, a USC partnership with South Los Angeles schools founded in 1977, has been making college a reality for low-income high school students and giving disadvantaged youth the skills they need to survive college. Upward Bound has always committed itself to the higher education of underprivileged students and since its founding has expanded from just three local high schools to nine high schools including Crenshaw High School, Dorsey High School, Manual Arts High School, Washington Preparatory and Jordan High School.
Over 90 percent of the graduating seniors in the program enrolled in college this year, according to Michael Santos, Upward Bound program manager. Upward Bound started with just 60 youths participating and now has more than 150 youths, with a budget of more than $1 million.
The partnership may never be more important than it is today.
A partnership between USC and the U.S. Department of Education, Upward Bound allows students from the ages of 13 to 18 to participate in a challenging college preparation program that involves a nearly 8- month academic program that meets Saturdays on campus and includes a five-week summer residential program, according to the program’s website.
It is one way USC tries to form positive partnerships with South Los Angeles and increase college matriculation for urban youth.
“The summer program is very intense, they have to wake up at six in the morning and then their classes don’t end until four in the afternoon. We have about 80 students attend each year and because of a partnership with LA Trade Tech College we offer credit for college courses,” said Santos. “We also provide academic programs in the core of writing, foreign language, science, and math during the school year.”
Lily Truong-Gomez, a senior at Washington Prepartory who will attend UCLA in the fall, talks about her experiences with Upward Bound in these three interview sessions.
The program is federally -funded and is a part of the Civil Rights Education Act of 1964, according to Santos, and receives grants from the government.
“We receive a grant every four years and we’re in the first year of a four year cycle, so currently we’re not sure about plans of expansion,” said Santos.
The program’s funding has been steady and has not experienced an increase under the current administration, according to Santos, and has been at the same level for the past ten years.
As for the future of Upward Bound, the program hopes to build even more partnerships with USC and other institutions to address growing needs.
“We’ve been here for more than 30 years, but there is always room for growth. We could definitely use more funding and partnerships with the university and the outside,” said Santos.
The program has drastically changed the course of students’ lives, according to one participant and now graduate of the program. Jonathan Franklin, who graduated from Dorsey High School in 2008 and is now a junior attending UCLA majoring in psychology, said Upward Bound inspired him to reach new heights.
“Upward Bound helped me to be more organized, focused, and responsible. I’ve grown immensely as a student and as person,” said Franklin, who graduated from Dorsey with a 3.5 grade point average. “The summer program especially taught me how to communicate with others who were from a different social background and mindset than I was. This is a skill that will definitely help me in college since I’ll know how to network with people different from myself.”
The ultimate goal of Upward Bound is to make college “a goal and a reality for first generation or low-income students and give them the tools to succeed so they can survive culture shock of college” said Santos.
Upward Bound pushes students to pursue their interests with passion and dedication.
“One of the writing classes I took in the program inspired me to put my thoughts on paper so now I’m writing a book about pressing urban issues like gang violence,” said Franklin. “Upward Bound is a program that can benefit anybody and everybody and I can owe my growth as person to my experiences with the program.”