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Upward Bound program celebrates success in 50th year


STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAU) -- A federal program designed to improve the odds for high school students to be successful in college is in it’s 50th year, and 47th year in central Wisconsin. It’s called Upward Bound. Judy Young is one of the counselors for the UW Stevens Point based program. She says Upward Bound began as a program to encourage more native American and poverty-affected children to prepare for college.  “Upward Bound is a federally funded program initially started under President Johnson in 1964 in the War on Poverty. They were designed to prepare low income students and those students who come from families that would be the first ones to go to college to get enrolled into college and succeed.”

Upward Bound works closely with each participating student to help them choose the right path, and acquire the skills to achieve their goals.  “We do a lot of academic skill building and we have a lot of course instruction in our six-week summer session, so they take like basic skills areas like reading, writing, math, science. We do career exploration with the students. We do advising, like what classes do you need to take in order to get into college and succeed, study skills, test taking skills.”

The students involved in this area’s Upward Bound effort are spending five and a half weeks living in UWSP dorms and taking special classes during the day.  “We have 93 students overall. We have 60 participating in the summer, and from each of our target schools, we have roughly 7 to 8 kids, so Stevens Point’s SPASH would be 8 students from the Stevens Point area, but we serve Wausau, Plainfield Tri County, we go also go as far north as Eagle River. We do Minocqua, Tomahawk.”

Upward Bound focuses on a small group of students from each school district all year long.  “Our summer program is five and a half weeks long. That’s the biggest component of our program, really, is our summer session, but we do work with the students year around.”

The program has been successful. Nearly 95% of Upward Bound graduates enroll in college after high school. 65% of them earn a Bachelor’s degree within six years after high school. The additional classes seem to be working, too. Last fall, 45% of the Upward Bound participants had grade point averages of 3.50 or higher.

Recruiting for the Upward Bound program occurs in the fall.

(Listen to our interview with Judy Young on our website, here.)