Upward Bound grants extended to help students finish high school, plan for college

By Katie Johnson

Every year, over 1.2 million students in the United States drop out of high school, and about 14% of high school freshmen fail to graduate on time, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In hopes of redirecting this trend, Education Service Center Region 12 implements three grants in Connally and La Vega, Waco, and Killeen ISDs. These three Upward Bound grants have been awarded a continuation, providing $297,600 per year per grant for the next five years to aid Central Texas high school students.

Upward Bound students in Waco

Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Upward Bound is an innovative program aimed at closing the gap and increasing the academic achievement levels of first-generation and economically disadvantaged students to succeed in high school, post-secondary education, and beyond.

“One of the most gratifying elements of this program is to have our Upward Bound alumni come back and work with our current participants as an ESC Region 12 Intermittent employee,” says Tammy Horner, ESC Region 12 Upward Bound project director. “Their presence in working as tutors, instructors and chaperones, while they continue on their own post-secondary education path is an encouragement to our students as they see that college can become a reality.”

Upward Bound supports participants in their preparation for college entrance and offers opportunities to succeed in their precollege performance and ultimately in their higher education pursuits. Projects offer academic instruction in mathematics, laboratory sciences, composition, literature, and foreign languages.

Upward Bound students from Connally & La Vega high schools

ESC Region 12’s Upward Bound program constitutes three separate grants as each contributes to helping high school students in different cities. One grant serves students at Connally and La Vega high schools. The second grant supports Waco and University high schools. The last grant is geared toward students at Killeen and Pathways high schools in Killeen ISD, and Richard Milburn Academy, a Killeen charter school.

The Upward Bound programs at ESC Region 12, which began in the fall of 2012, assist up to 60 students each year, per grant. Students are selected through an application and interview process, where report cards, transcripts, and teacher recommendations are evaluated. Once accepted into the Upward Bound program, rising ninth through eleventh-grade students are tracked through high school and six years beyond graduation to ensure completion of post-secondary education.

Since parent involvement is one of the driving factors behind overall student success, the participants’ parents also receive support during their child’s high school career and college application process. This aid and involvement includes informational meetings, financial aid and scholarship information and counseling, college requirement counseling, and financial planning.

Kick-off celebrations for each Upward Bound program is Sept. 24. Upward Bound Waco will meet at ESC Region 12, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Upward Bound Killeen will meet at Killeen High School, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Upward Bound Connally and La Vega will meet at Connally High School, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

For more information on the Upward Bound program, please visit esc12.net/upwardbound.

Katie Johnson is graphic design & communications specialist with Education Service Center Region 12.

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