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Upward Bound gets grant

Laura Vilim | Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Notre Dame’s Upward Bound program, which prepares high school students for a college degree, recently received a $19,000 grant from the Moody’s Foundation to establish a mathematical project-based learning component in this summer’s program.The grant will be used to introduce college-bound high school graduates to new methods of analyzing real world problems through the use of math, accounting, economics, research, literature, technology and marketing principles. Students will have to decide where to build their business, what materials they will need to begin and how to manage it once it has been created. According to Upward Bound director Alyssia Coates, the greatest asset of the new program is that it requires each participant to fulfill both individual and collective roles.”[The program] provides hands on experience where students think critically alone and in a group,” Coates said.The Moody’s Foundation was established by the Moody’s Corporation, the parent company of Moody’s KVM, a credit risk management technology firm serving the South Bend community. Upward Bound was chosen out of ten organizations that applied for the grant because of its unique and carefully planned programs, Coates said.In addition to the mathematical component of the six-week Upward Bound Residential Summer Program held at Notre Dame, high school graduates take credit courses in math and literature, live in the residence halls and attend workshops and cultural activities. All of these components focus on preparing students for the changes that come with college life.Since Upward Bound was initially established at Notre Dame in 1966 by Robert Christin, it has become the national prototype for Upward Bound Programs across the country. It is one of seven programs of the federally funded TRIO organization, which is dedicated to helping disadvantaged high school students enter and graduate from college. In concert with the U.S. Department of Education, Notre Dame’s Upward Bound works with high school students who come from families with low-incomes or families where no member has received their four year degree. Upward Bound has programs established in four South Bend Community High Schools where faculty and college students work with 90 participants. Students usually apply to the program their freshman year so they can have four years to be immersed in the college preparatory process. Applicants must meet certain academic criteria, but Coates emphasizes that it is more important for participants to be willing to devote their time and energy toward the college process than it is to have outstanding grades.”We are not only interested in our students having a great grade point average, but that they know how to write well, communicate effectively, and think critically,” she said.Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s students have played a crucial role in Upward Bound by serving as tutors and counselors during the academic year component of the program. In addition to providing help in subjects ranging from science to foreign language, the college students have offered valuable insights on preparing for college admission tests such as the SAT. Although the academic preparations for college are a central focus of Upward Bound, the administrators of the program face the more important task of changing the mindsets of low-income high school students who have never been exposed to the idea that going to college can be a reality. Coates believes that the combination of real life and academics made possible by the new project-based mathematics initiative will provide yet another way of proving to students that they are capable of succeeding in college and outside of the classroom setting.”[I tell the students] you have untapped potential. You were born for a purpose,” she said. “[Upward Bound] establishes real relationships with students, and it is out of this relationship that we see them respond.”