Upward Bound Program Success Soars

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Harvey Mudd College’s Upward Bound (UB) program surpassed its goals for the 2011-2012 academic year, continuing on a successful course and aiming for higher marks in the future.

The federally funded program helps low-income and potential first-generation college students improve their chances of getting into and graduating from a post-secondary institution.

Ninety percent of the high school seniors who participated in the program last year are enrolled in college today, with the majority attending a four-year institution. Ninety-two of the 128 participants improved their grade point average, representing a 33 percent increase over last year’s program results.

“It’s an accomplishment we share as a team,” said Angie Covarrubias Aguilar, HMC Upward Bound Program Director. “We have an incredibly strong program made up of wonderful students, parents, alumni, mentors, faculty and staff who have dedicated an enormous amount of time to the success of our students and our program.”

HMC’s UB program was recently granted more than $3.25 million in federal funds to support its next five years of operation. The award also boosts the program’s objectives. UB will increase its number of participants to 145 students annually, and strive to have at least 60 percent of them complete a degree within six years after completing high school.

Last summer, two Upward Bound scholars participated in a two-week research internship in the Chemistry department, working with HMC students and chemistry professors Karl Haushalter, Leila Hawkins and David Vosburg. It was the second time program participants had the opportunity to participate in chemistry research, and Aguilar hopes to expand the internships to other departments.

“We will continue with the chemistry partnership, and I’m working with other professors to create a two-week research project with UB students,” she said. “Once the details are ironed out, I believe we will have even more students involved.”

Drawn from schools in the East San Gabriel Valley, Upward Bound scholars attend a six-week summer program at HMC that incorporates an intensive math, chemistry and literature curriculum with academic enrichment activities such as computer science, dance, foreign language, SAT test preparation, study hall and group recreation.

HMC also hosts Upward Bound residential summer programs at U.C. Davis, U.C. San Diego and Georgetown University.

HMC staff work closely with the scholars, their parents and their school counselors and administrators. All efforts are focused on preparing them to enroll and succeed in a four-year college or university.

HMC Upward Bound is making an enduring difference. Eighty-nine percent of program alumni tracked from 2008 to 2012 have either graduated or are still enrolled in college. In fact, Aguilar is herself an alumna of the program.

Upward Bound was the first of a series of federal programs founded by Congress and the Johnson Administration through the 1964 Economic Opportunity Act. The program began at the Claremont University Center in 1968. It was moved to HMC in 1975 by then president Joseph Platt and then Dean of Faculty Sam Tannenbaum.