When Angie Covarrubias Aguilar found out her proposal to renew the Upward Bound grant at Harvey Mudd College had been accepted, she was thrilled. And relieved. “We submitted the grant proposal in November and heard it had been accepted on May 30, the day before it was set to expire,” she says. Instead of celebrating, Aguilar, who is the Harvey Mudd Upward Bound program director and a graduate of the program herself, went back to work, preparing for this year’s summer residency programs.
Each year, Harvey Mudd Upward Bound staff members recruit approximately 50 second-semester ninth-graders from five local high schools to participate in its free, six-week summer program that incorporates an intensive academic curriculum of math, chemistry and literature with academic enrichment activities, including computer science, dance, foreign language, SAT test preparation, group recreation and cultural enrichment activities.
The first week of the program for the new recruits, is dedicated to orientation; the remaining five weeks are spent in residence at Harvey Mudd. After 10th grade, participants must attend a second, six-week summer program with either the Capitol Internship program at University of California, Davis or the La Jolla Science Project at University of California, San Diego. A third (optional) six-week summer program is available for students who rank in the top 14 of their Upward Bound junior class. These students have the opportunity to attend the Georgetown Internship project at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where they take four hours of U.S. history and American literature classes and participate in a four-hour internship in a professional office or government agency each day.
What is now the Harvey Mudd College Upward Bound program began in 1968 at the Claremont University Center. In 1972, the program was moved to Harvey Mudd by then president Joseph Platt and newly appointed Dean of Faculty Sam Tannenbaum. From the start, Octavio Boubion, the grant’s project director, distinguished himself and the grant with a reputation for innovation and creativity.
Motivated by the purpose of getting low-income, first-generation kids to college, Aguilar, who is the program’s fourth director, has carried on Boubion’s tradition, regularly exceeding the objectives set by the grant. Last year, the program sent 109 students through summer residencies (19 more students than the stated objective), and 100 percent of the program’s seniors in 2016 achieved at least proficient level on the state tests for reading/language arts and math (the objective was 70 percent). Historically, more than 90 percent of Harvey Mudd College’s Upward Bound students have enrolled in post-secondary institutions after graduating from high school.
Aguilar’s winning bid secures more than $670,000 in funding per year for five years. The competitive grant is part of a national program funded by the Department of Education.
Having graduated from Harvey Mudd’s Upward Bound program in 1996, Aguilar is uniquely suited to her position. “I’ve held every position in the organization, from student to director,” she says. The members of Aguilar’s staff are also program graduates, which Aguilar says helps when designing a rigorous, successful program. “We have an advantage of having come from the communities where the kids come from,” she says. “We require a lot from our students, but we make sure we set them up to succeed.”