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Upward Bound program succeeds in helping students earn scholarships, graduate

ISSUED: 12 January 2021
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — For the past three years, Shepherd University’s Upward Bound program has been working in Berkeley County’s four high schools, helping first-generation and/or income eligible students gain the academic skills, personal support, and cultural exposure to assist them in graduating from high school and completing college.

“What we’re looking for are dedicated students who have the end goal of attending college,” said Cynthia Copney, director of TRIO Programs, which includes Upward Bound. “We work one-on-one with our students. We get them college ready. We are looking for students who are motivated and will not let anything stand in their way of accomplishing their goal of going to college.”

Copney said Upward Bound accepts students who are in grades 9-12 and who are willing to make the commitment to stay in the program until they graduate from high school.

“At the end of graduation, they will have an acceptance letter to the college of their choice along with a financial aid package,” Copney said.

Upward Bound offers weekly afternoon study sessions in each high school, plus one to two Saturday sessions a month. Students are expected to attend a six-week summer academy during which they stay on Shepherd’s campus and prepare for high school classes they will take the following fall.

Joselin Fuentes, Upward Bound academic coordinator, said she enjoys working with the high school students and providing them personalized service.

“For example, if a student comes to me and says ‘Ms. Fuentes, I need help with time management,’ we’re going to develop a workshop for time management to help that student and we’re going to make sure it’s detailed so when they go off to college, they can use those skills,” Fuentes said. “I really like watching the students grow, go off to college, and come back and show us they’ve succeeded.”

One of those success stories is Martinsburg High School graduate Valerie Martinez Ramos, a second-year business major at Shepherd who for the past three semesters has maintained a 3.5 grade point average and been on the Dean’s List. Ramos is in the TRIO Student Support Services Program, which helps college students stay in good academic standing and graduate. She said Upward Bound prepared her well thanks to countless college readiness workshops and by familiarizing her with Shepherd’s campus through the summer academy.

“Upward Bound made a huge difference in my life,” Ramos said. “Before I joined, I was really shy and reserved and I kept to myself most times. But being in the program has allowed me to become more outgoing and talkative, especially in group settings. I have grown with the program, through the transition from high school to college. I have been able to find myself and what I am passionate about.”

Trinity Oster, a Spring Mills High School senior is also finding success after spending two years in Upward Bound. Oster is one of 1,464 top high school seniors from across the nation chosen for an $80,000 a year QuestBridge National College Match Scholarship. When she joined Upward Bound, Oster said she knew it was a college prep program, but she didn’t realize how personalized it is.

“It’s more of a family,” Oster said. “The tutors and everyone here really care about each of us. They want to see us succeed and they honestly will do anything to see that happen.”

Upward Bound students visit a variety of colleges, and Oster said that benefited her and has helped her narrow down the type of school she wants to attend. She said one of the most beneficial parts of the program was the summer academy, which gave her a first look at what living on a college campus is like.

“It was just a great experience,” she said. “We walked throughout the campus, I made some great friends, I became more independent overall, and our classes were a lot of fun. It was just very memorable for me being part of this academy for the first time.”

Jeremy Appiah, a senior at Martinsburg High School, found the SAT and ACT prep the most beneficial.

“It has definitely given me a lot of pointers and a lot of tips and tricks to be more efficient while taking those tests to upgrade my score,” Appiah said. “The tutoring sessions every week on Thursday were also beneficial. Upward Bound has impacted my life in a positive way. Being around positive people like that really makes you want to go even further in life.”

The U.S. Department of Education began funding the Shepherd Upward Bound Program in 2017, and it’s set up to serve 60 students per year. For more information about Upward Bound, visit https://www.shepherd.edu/upwardbound.

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