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Upward Bound receives $1.5 million grant

ISSUED: 8 June 2022

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — Shepherd University’s Upward Bound Program will continue serving Berkeley County high school students for the next five years thanks to a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Upward Bound is one of several TRIO programs administered by the education department. Shepherd received its first Upward Bound grant in 2017.

Cynthia Copney, Shepherd’s director of TRIO programs, felt confident that Upward Bound grant would be renewed.

“We have done an excellent job in the first five-year cycle,” Copney said. “We met a lot of our objectives, we worked really hard with the students, and there’s a need. I am thrilled the program has been renewed.”

Joselin Fuentes, assistant director of Upward Bound, said she’s excited she’ll be able to continue working with students for another five years.

“We work very closely with our students and I’m excited to continue to do that,” Fuentes said.

Photo of Karen Escobar, Cynthia Copney, and Joselin Fuentes smiling, looking at camera, in front of greenery

Pictured (l. to r.) are Karen Escobar, academic coordinator; Cynthia Copney, director of TRIO programs; and Joselin Fuentes, assistant director of Upward Bound.

Upward Bound serves first-generation and/or income eligible high school students, helping them gain the academic skills, personal support, and cultural exposure that will lead to high school graduation, post-secondary enrollment and completion, and a love for lifelong learning.

Students in all four Berkeley County high schools participate in the program, which offers after school tutoring once a week at the high schools and Saturday workshops on Shepherd’s campus that include topics like preparing for college entrance exams, time management, and how to communicate effectively.

There’s also a six-week summer academy where Fuentes said staff spends the most time with the students. This year’s academy will run from June 13-July 22. Berkeley County Schools provides transportation so the students can participate in classes on Shepherd’s campus.

“For them to just be on campus and get to experience college, get to sit in a classroom and see what it looks like is really important,” Fuentes said. “Some of the courses are taught by college professors so they get that great exposure—like what is a syllabus, what do you need to succeed, and how do you lay out course material for the six weeks?”

Upward Bound students will spend two of those weeks in a residence hall experiencing what it’s like to live on campus.

“This is when we build the most bond with them,” Fuentes said.

Participating in the summer academy gives the students a head start on classes they’ll be taking at their high schools in the fall. Summer offerings include classes in Spanish or French, math, science, and literature. There’s also a special themed career class. This summer’s theme is entrepreneurship.

“A lot of our younger students like to hustle; they like to make their own money,” Fuentes said. “Some of them have their own small business at their young age. This course will help them build a whole business plan working with different components like marketing, commercials, and all the things you would need to be successful in a business. The students will be able to enter their business plan into a contest to win a scholarship.”

Once a year, Berkeley County Upward Bound students attend a conference in Flatwoods, West Virginia, where they can network with others from across the state. The program also takes them on college tours, to places like Washington, D.C., and offers fun social and cultural activities.

“The activities that we try to concentrate on are things that they would typically not do on their own,” Copney said. “We always combine trips with college tours to give the students an idea about the type of college they would like to go to, whether four-year, two-year, large, small, in state, or out of state.”

The Upward Bound Program has a proven track record in its first five years at Berkeley County’s four High Schools. During the pandemic academic year of 2019-2020, 78% of students participating in Upward Bound had a grade point average of 2.5 or higher, 87% stayed in Upward Bound throughout high school, 100% graduated from high school under a rigorous program of study approved by the U.S. Department of Education to prepare students for college, and 75% enrolled in a postsecondary institution immediately after high school graduation.

“It’s my opinion that Upward Bound is successful because the students want to be successful,” Copney said.

About a third of the students in the program end up attending Shepherd, while some choose to while some choose to attend other U.S. colleges or universities. Fuentes said Shepherd is a natural choice for many of them.

“They know what to expect and what it looks like because they’ve spent the last four years at Shepherd in the summer,” Fuentes said. “A lot of first-generation students and students who come from income-eligible backgrounds don’t always develop that sense of belonging. We try to teach our students that you belong here, and this is how you need to get involved to develop that sense of belonging in college.”

Copney credits Shepherd for welcoming the students and providing many services for the program.

“I’d like to say thank you to Shepherd University for all the support that we get from the faculty and the staff here. It all makes a big difference in the students’ success,” Copney said. “I always say, working together, we can make a powerful impact in the lives of our students. We all work together. It’s not just TRIO, it’s everyone on this campus.”

For more information about the program, visit the Upward Bound webpage.

Listen to Joselin Fuentes and Cynthia Copney talk about Upward Bound here.

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