Upward Bound: Sending Students Soaring for Nearly 50 Years
Success stories of the Upward Bound program can be found across Kent State University, from administrators and department heads to current students.
“Many of us who are working here attribute our success to the Upward Bound program,” said Sonya Williams, executive director of the Office of University Outreach and Engagement with the Provost’s Office, which oversees the program.
Williams is a product of Upward Bound, along with Lamar R. Hylton, Ph.D., senior vice president for Student Affairs, and Mike Daniels, director of the E. Timothy Moore Student Multicultural Center. They all have spoken publicly about how the program helped them to realize that a college education was an attainable goal.
Williams said the program dates back to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty and was formed as part of the Educational Opportunity Act of 1964. Two other federal programs followed: Talent Search in 1965 and Special Services for Disadvantaged Students (later known as Student Support Services) in 1968. Together, they have come to be known as the TRIO programs, and have become a vital pipeline to opportunity, serving traditional students, displaced workers and veterans.
The idea, Williams said, is to engage high school students from low-income families, and to show them the possibilities.
“We provide in-school engagement, students come to our campus four times a year and six weeks in the summer, where they take classes through several of our colleges,” Williams said. During the summer session, the students also take a trip to visit several other universities.
Upward Bound has been at Kent State since 1971. Kent State currently is in seven high schools in cities throughout Northeast Ohio: Ravenna, Windham, Barberton, Akron, Lorain, Canton and Warren, she said.
One of Kent State’s newest Upward Bound success stories is Christina Maldonado, 20, a sophomore in the College of Nursing and a native of Barberton.
Maldonado’s grandparents and parents migrated to Ohio from Mexico to work as laborers on a farm in Copley Township, outside of Akron.
It was Maldonado’s mother who had first learned about the Upward Bound program from her English as a Second Language teacher and encouraged her daughter to get involved.
Maldonado’s mother has worked as a nursing assistant at an assisted living facility in Barberton for 22 years, so Maldonado was exposed to the nursing profession early in life through her mother’s job.
“They really pulled me into their community, and they are pushing me to keep going,” she said.
She attended her first Upward Bound summer session the year after her freshman year of high school in 2018. “We had the whole move-in process and got to take courses as if I was a real college student,” she recalled.
At the urging of her mother, Maldonado took part in the Upward Bound program through the College of Nursing and returned for a second year in 2019, even though she had already gone through the nursing program.
“I loved it and I wanted to go back that second time. I would have come back for all four years,” Maldonado said.
She met Ann James and Laurie Robinson, both lecturers in the College of Nursing, who were her Upward Bound teachers and now are her instructors.
“The program really established my love for nursing,” she said, “I knew that it was what I wanted to do.”
Upward Bound also solidified her choice of Kent State as the place where she wanted to pursue her degree.
“I already knew some people in the program, and I felt like I had supporters here,” she said.
In addition to learning nursing skills such as how to take a patient’s vital signs and perform CPR, she also was able to take reading courses and other electives that helped her. She saved notes that she took during Upward Bound courses on how to understand different testing styles and how to study and prepare for them. “That is something that I still use,” she said.
Robinson, a lecturer in the College of Nursing, praised Maldonado’s attitude, both as an Upward Bound student and now as a nursing student.
“Christina has been great to work with,” Robinson said. “She was a great student in Upward Bound, positive, smiling, and participating. I was very excited when I found out she had come to Kent and was going to be my lab student.”
Robinson said Maldonado continues to do well. “She comes to lab with an amazing attitude and puts in the extra time to really understand the content. She knows what she wants, and she is going for it! She will be a great nurse!” Robinson said.
Maldonado already is thinking about her future in nursing – although more than two years away, she hopes to be able to pass her state nursing certification examination on the first try, and she already is considering a specialty in labor and delivery nursing.
“I also have an interest in traveling nursing and would like to have the opportunity to work as a traveling nurse, and to live in other parts of the country for a few years before settling down back here in Ohio,” she said.
Williams said the TRIO programs involve not just the students, but also their families, engagement that often helps parents achieve their high school diploma equivalent through the General Education Development Test (GED).
“I feel like it’s a purpose-driven program, that allows us to bring people up and out of their circumstances, so they know that they can be something better,” she said.
Click here to learn more about Kent State’s Upward Bound program and its history as part of President Johnson’s War on Poverty.