posted April 28, 2014

Upward Bound Gala on Saturday to Celebrate 45 Years of Changing Lives

The calendar provides the occasion, but it’s the generations-long impact that is the true cause for celebration as the Hope College TRiO Upward Bound college-readiness program approaches its 45th Anniversary Gala, scheduled for Saturday, May 17.

The activities will span the day, beginning with a breakfast and benefit golf outing at Winding Creek Golf Course, and continuing with an evening reception and banquet at the college’s Haworth Inn and Conference Center and an “after-glow” reception at Serafina’s Restaurant in Holland.  Proceeds from the golf outing will support the Upward Bound Scholarship Fund that helps students pay for college.

The keynote speaker during the banquet will be Dr. Antonio R. Flores, who is president and chief executive officer of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU).  Flores has strong ties himself to Hope College Upward Bound:  he was the program’s director in the 1970s.

Hope College TRiO Upward Bound seeks to generate the skills and motivation necessary for success in education beyond high school among students from low-income and first-generation families who have the potential to pursue a college education but may lack adequate preparation or support.

The program is one of the oldest continuous Upward Bound programs in the country, and has been administered through Hope since its inception.  In addition to being supported by the college, it has received funding through the federal TRiO program every year since it began in 1968.

Nationally, TRiO is marking its 50th anniversary.  It began as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty with the Educational Opportunity Act of 1964.

Anyone seeking to understand the difference that the Hope program makes, and the depth of appreciation felt by its alumni, would need look no farther than a gathering at the program’s offices in Graves Hall earlier this spring.

In the middle of a busy weekday afternoon, past participants spanning nearly the entire history of the program took the time to gather and reflect during a roundtable discussion on the difference that the program made for them.  And they were just the ones who were able to make it on that particular day and at that particular time.  Many more were willing.

Participating were Rick Altamira of Holland, Yadira Bautista of Holland, Brenda Cuellar of Fennville, Norfilia Ramirez-Hamilton of Ada, Alberto Serrano of Holland, Luis Silva of Holland, Edward Sosa of Jenison, Thu Tran of Holland and Scott Wytosick of Holland.

“I was the first one in my family to go to college,” said Ramirez-Hamilton, who graduated from Fennville High School in 1970 and went on to complete not only an undergraduate degree but a master’s in social work, attending Central Michigan University and Grand Valley State University, and retired a few years ago as a counselor with the Grand Rapids schools. “It provided a confidence in myself that my educational goal could be attained.”

“Going to college was something completely foreign as far as I was concerned,” said Serrano, who graduated from Holland High School in 1970 and went on to Hope and Michigan State University. “Being here on campus made me very familiar with what college was like and gave me the confidence to pursue going to college.”

Serrano returned for a time as a counselor and service as acting director of the program.  He is now retired after several years as human relations director for the City of Holland.

Four decades later, the program continues to mean as much to students.

“I can write a series of books explaining how on so many levels this program has helped me,” said Wytosick, who graduated from Holland High School in 2004 and went on to Kalamazoo Valley Community College and Western Michigan University, and now serves with the Park Township Fire Department.  “I needed tutoring.  I needed to open up.  I needed help getting into college.  Experiences of different cultures, confidence in myself and work—and so much more.”

“Upward Bound is the reason why I was able to go to college,” said Silva, who graduated from West Ottawa High School in 2006 and went on to earn his degree at Hope, where he now works as an admissions counselor.  “Because of the work ethic it helped me develop, the strong values it instilled in me, and the ambition it created in me to do well academically, I was able to attend Hope College on a completely full-ride scholarship.”

The program enrolls 85 students each year from the Holland, West Ottawa and Fennville school districts. Since it began, more than 2,500 students have participated.  The program’s success rate in enrolling students in post-secondary institutions averages between 85 and 90 percent.  On average, 81 percent of the students who entered post-secondary institutions in the last five years are still enrolled or have graduated.

While the focus of Upward Bound is on academic advising and support, the program also continually offers personal and career counseling as well as involvement in cultural and recreational activities.

Throughout the academic year, students come to Hope twice a week to receive help in their high school subjects from Hope College tutors. One Friday or Saturday per month, the students meet for three hours to attend workshops on topics such as goal-setting, decision- making, the college search process, career awareness and time management. A senior seminar which meets once a week helps seniors with the college admission process, financial aid and ACT/SAT testing.

A six-week summer residential program on the Hope campus exposes students to the academic and social world of college. Students live in a residence hall, attend classes in the morning, and participate in career internships and elective classes in the afternoon. Evenings are set aside for study sessions and social and cultural activities.

In addition to the structured academic and social activities, the Upward Bound students also volunteer for community projects, such as watershed clean-up and visiting with the elderly at senior living facilities. They also provide rest stops for the Holland 100 bike tour each summer in order to raise money for their cultural enrichment and college scholarship funds.

The program operates as part of a network of programs at the college focused on enhancing young students’ educational attainment.  The Children’s After School Achievement (CASA) and Step Up programs provide academic and cultural enrichment for at-risk first- through fifth-grade students and middle-school students respectively.

Sponsors of the May 17 gala celebration include Ottawa County Republicans, Chair Cover Express, DeNooyer Chevrolet, Tiger Studio, John and Char Janssen, Su Casa South Haven, and numerous others.

More information about Hope College TRiO Upward Bound is available online at hope.edu/admin/upbound/