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Upward Bound summer program offers crash course in college

August 7, 2018
two Upward Bound Rochester students standing at a podium, one with a laptop, one smiling as they speak into the microphoneUpward Bound students Idalys Castro, left, and Identity Lee present their "UB Listening" project at the annual Academic Summer Showcase. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

Makenna Hutchinson was hoping to sample what college life was like when she joined the University of Rochester’s summer Upward Bound program in late June.

She soon discovered her sample was a full entrée.

Upward Bound Rochester student smiling for the camera

Upward Bound student Makenna Hutchinson. (University of Rochester photo / Jim Mandelaro)

Over six weeks, the rising senior at Rochester’s Wilson Magnet High School took classes in Arabic, college orientation, money management, writing, psychology, law, and chemistry. She also went on four college tours.

“It was a great experience,” she says. “The versatility and opportunity Upward Bound gives you can’t be beat.”

There are 206 Rochester City School District students in the University’s year-long college preparatory program, and 168 took part in the summer portion. Many displayed their work through poster boards and presentations at the Upward Bound Academic Summer Showcase on August 2 in Hutchison Hall.

Upward Bound is run by the staff at the David T. Kearns Center and funded by the US Department of Education to help students—many of them economically disadvantaged—develop the skills and motivation to complete high school and succeed in college.

Kyvaughn Henry, assistant director of pre-college programs at the Kearns Center, says the “College 101” summer class is a vital part of the program.

“Many of the students will be first-generation students,” she says. “They don’t have someone in their household to tell them the things they should know about college.”

Jason Cao is a rising junior at Wilson Magnet. He has been part of Upward Bound for three years, visiting the University twice a week during the school year for tutoring sessions while working with an academic advisor at Wilson.

“No one in my family has ever gone to college, and I probably wouldn’t have either,” he says. “A middle school counselor approached me at my locker a few years ago and asked what I had planned for summer. I said I’d probably sleep a lot. He told me about Upward Bound, and I applied.”

Cao now carries a 4.25 grade-point average, plays violin in the Joseph C. Wilson Magnet Orchestra, and is a member of the varsity bowling team. He hopes to major in psychology and neuroscience in college.

“If I had never joined Upward Bound, I wouldn’t have even thought of college,” he says. “Now, I can’t wait to go.”

More than 60 faculty members and graduate students at the University assist Upward Bound students. Wilson senior Patience Girigiri worked in a laboratory with Michael Neidig, associate professor of chemistry, and Stephanie Carpenter ’14, exploring cobalt-catalyzed reactions.

Neidig says he never tires of seeing the “fresh faces” who join the Upward Bound program.

“When they walk into a research lab for the first time, it’s a completely different world,” he says. “You see the excitement and awe on their faces.”

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