By Phillip Milano
In one of the most competitive grant seasons in the history of federal Trio programs for disadvantaged students, Jacksonville University has received $1.9 million to continue its Upward Bound program another five years for students at five area high schools.
The federal grant for educational support services will provide $398,997 annually and allow JU to serve 89 students total each year at Raines, Ribault, Jackson, Lee and Englewood high schools.
“We are so excited to have recaptured this grant in such a competitive season,” said Glori White Peters, director of the Upward Bound Program at JU. “The federal Trio programs are essentially part of the university culture and have been since 1977, when we were initially funded. We were on pins and needles because there have been lots of changes, new priorities and more accountability.”
Among the changes was ensuring that “persistently lowest-achieving” (PLA) schools were being served, and infusing more technology into the program. Three of the schools served by JU’s Upward Bound program – Raines, Ribault and Jackson – are PLAs, Peters noted.
Upward Bound is part of the TRIO national program designed to serve high school students who meet certain criteria. Students must be first-generation college-bound students and/or meet federal income guidelines.
After on-site presentations from Upward Bound, students apply to the program each spring, through their guidance counselors or online. Once accepted, they receive intensive academic instruction and tutoring, participate in career development and college exploration activities, and receive college scholarship search and financial aid assistance.
Peters, who participated in the Trio Student Services Program at JU, graduated with her degree in sociology, and because of the support she received went on to complete her graduate degree. She takes pride in the success rate of the university’s Upward Bound program as a testament to how well Trio works. For 2010-11, for example, more than 91 percent of Upward Bound students showed improvement on state assessment tests, nearly 92 percent remained in the program and 100 percent who enrolled in college were still enrolled the following fall.
“I know how this program changed my life, and I can’t imagine it not being on our campus,” she said.
Without Upward Bound, some students who could be making As and Bs languish in the classroom, Peters said.
“It may be because their motivation level is low, or maybe there’s a family situation, or they are wondering where their next meal is coming from,” she said. “But this program offers another kind of family to step in and help turn things around. It’s a transformational experience for them.”
Upward Bound staff closely monitor students’ academic progress, and students are required to attend weekly roundtable tutorial sessions and participate in monthly activities such as campus visits, cultural events or community-based projects.
Students also participate in an intensive, six-week on-campus college-going experience beginning in June, where they stay in JU residence halls while attending classes. By the time they’re finished, depending on grade outcomes, they’ll have three elective high school credits and six college credits at the university they attend.
New this year is an intensive two-week boot camp, with a focus on economic and financial literacy, college and career choices and ACT and SAT standardized test preparation.
JU is one of 19 colleges and universities throughout the state that will receive more than $28 million in funding over the next five years.
More on JU’s Upward Bound program is at http://www.ju.edu/OSSP/Pages/Upward-Bound.aspx.