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TRiO receives $1.2 million grant for Upward Bound program

Shepherd University received a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to operate an Upward Bound program over the next five years in Berkeley County’s four high schools. The grant will provide $257,500 a year so Shepherd can provide academic and college preparation support to economically disadvantaged high school students whose parents did not attend college.

The program will begin September 1 and will serve a total of 60 students—15 each from Spring Mills, Hedgesville, Martinsburg, and Musselman high schools.

“When we were compiling data we saw a strong need for Upward Bound within the Berkeley County Schools and that’s really what forged the way for us to sit down in the evenings and work on this grant,” said Evora Baker, academic retention specialist with Shepherd’s TRiO program. “Berkeley County is one of the fastest growing counties in the state, so that contributed to us having the number of students that we need to serve.”

“There are a large number of students who hit the qualifiers—first generation students who are income eligible as determined by the Department of Education,” added Michelle Ricketts, TRiO academic retention specialist. “Some of those high schools are really big and I think sometimes in the bigger schools it’s easier to see those areas of need, especially in test scores and proficiency numbers.”

Upward Bound is open to students in ninth grade and above. Anyone can nominate a student for the program. A committee will choose which students participate. Cynthia Copney, director of Shepherd’s TRiO programs, said students entering ninth grade and above are eligible, and their parents’ willingness to help the student participate will be taken into consideration.

“Because we know without parental support, accomplishing our goals will be more difficult.” Copney said. “We will select the students who want the help and we want to know they have the support of their parents who are willing to, for example, make the kids go to a workshop on Saturday.”

Upward Bound will offer weekly tutoring sessions at each high school, Saturday workshops covering various topics, and a six-week summer program on Shepherd’s campus that will cover subjects like math, a foreign language, literature, science, and health and wellness. Copney said the students will have the opportunity to live in a Shepherd residence hall during the summer. Berkeley County Schools wrote a letter of support for the program that includes several items that are essential to sustaining the grant.

“It is our intent through this partnership to provide opportunities for students to be successful in a challenging program that will prepare them for a rigorous postsecondary career,” Don Dellinger, deputy superintendent, Berkeley County Schools, wrote in the letter.

“We’re just thrilled to be able to work with Berkeley County Schools,” Copney said. “Because they know there’s a need, they want nothing but the best for their students.”

Copney said Upward Bound has six goals Shepherd and the high school students must meet. They are maintaining a G.P.A. of at least 2.5 or higher, achieving proficiency on standardized tests, staying in school and graduating, enrolling in postsecondary education the fall immediately following high school graduation, and finishing college within six years of graduating from high school. Shepherd will be required to document each student’s progress as he or she moves through high school and college.

“I am super excited,” Baker said. “I’m looking forward to being able to work with the students, to get to know their families, and to see them as they turn into adults and make that transition from high school to college.”

Copney and Baker both have experience working with Upward Bound programs. Baker said she’s seen the program do great things.

“I think it gives students hope,” Baker said. “Trying to navigate the complexities of higher education can be a daunting task. If you don’t have a parent to show you the way, where do you turn? I think with us being able to show them the way really makes a significant impact on their outcomes.”

Shepherd University’s TRiO Support Services program received a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to start an Upward Bound program in Berkeley County Schools. Pictured (l. to r.) are Michelle Ricketts, TRiO academic retention specialist; Cynthia Copney, director of TRiO programs; and Evora Baker, TRiO academic retention specialist.