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June 29, 2011
Updated Aug. 1, 2011
MARYVILLE, Mo. - Celebrating 25 years this summer, the Upward Bound program at Northwest Missouri State University has helped hundreds of high school students realize their goals of attending college and achieving success long after they set foot on a campus.
Upward Bound, a federally funded education program created by the Higher Education Act of 1965, got its start at Northwest in 1987. The program annually serves 70 high school students who come from low-income families, whose parents did not attend college or who live in rural areas.
This summer, the students again participated in Upward Bound's six-week summer residential program, which annually brings the youth to Northwest for college coursework and the chance to put some of their new skills to the test - from making early morning classes to getting along with roommates.
"We try to teach them what we call college survival skills," said Phil Kenkel, who helped launch Northwest's Upward Bound program 25 years ago and directs it currently. "Of course, academic skills are a big part of it. You have to be academically prepared, but we also try to teach them things such as time management, self-responsibility, how to deal with transitions and managing money. We try to teach them a lot of survival skills that are necessary to being successful once they step on a college campus."
The program targets students attending eight high schools in northwest Missouri - King City, Maryville, Nodaway-Holt, Northeast Nodaway, Rock Port, Stanberry, Tarkio and West Nodaway. Open to students who have completed their freshman year of high school up to recent high school graduates, Upward Bound is designed to help them build self-confidence while preparing them for the academic, social and cultural challenges of college life.
During the school year, Upward Bound students gather on the Northwest campus once a month to participate in workshops, college visits and other learning opportunities. A field tutor also meets with students weekly at their home school.
"They get that head start running, and just to see them be very confident going to college is the big impact," Kenkel said. "But also from the time when they're freshmen throughout the time they graduate from Upward Bound, throughout the myriad of experiences they have, it's great to see them grow as people and be open to new ideas and thoughts that they never thought were possible."
Nick Smith, who is entering his senior year at Stanberry High School, said he joined the Upward Bound program three years ago to help him prepare for college and find other opportunities. The program has helped him develop his communication skills along with a clearer picture of how he might afford college to pursue an athletic training career.
"If I went to college, I didn't know how I would do it because I'm going to have to pay for it by myself," he said. "But they're showing me that there are other ways to get to college."
Lacy Wooten, who will be junior this fall at Tarkio, said her involvement has helped boost her social skills and confidence.
"If you knew me two years ago, I was the most quiet person in the world," Wooten said. "It definitely helps with social skills a lot, just being able to randomly talk to someone new and keep a conversation going."
In addition to being unfamiliar with the college planning process, most students participating in Upward Bound have not been exposed to the same cultural opportunities that students who live in larger cities or suburban areas may enjoy. In addition to excursions to college campuses and theater performances during the school year, an extended cultural trip caps each summer's residential program. This year's class headed to Chicago July 11-14.
"We try to broaden those social and cultural horizons as well," Kenkel said. "They're going to experience the sights and sounds of Chicago, and learn about themselves. We'll visit colleges while we're there and try to get them exposed to that big world that's out there."
Said Wooten, who traveled with Upward Bound last summer to Madison, Wis., "I would never have been able to get all the cultural experiences that we do. I probably never would have gone to Chicago in my life. I definitely want to go to a big city when I go to college."
On average, about half of Upward Bound students who advance to college choose to attend Northwest because they become familiar with the campus and feel comfortable in its surroundings, Kenkel said. Other students have attended schools such as the University of Iowa, the University of Missouri-Columbia, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee or Robert Morris University in Chicago, while aspiring to study subjects like medicine, law and engineering.
"We try to find a college that meets their needs," Kenkel said. "We try to prepare and motivate them to continue their education past high school, and we do that through various academic, career, social and personal enrichment opportunities. The ultimate goal is that they're going to be prepared to successfully begin and complete a college education."
That first summer in 1987, Northwest's Upward Bound program drew about 50 participants. Since then, Kenkel said, the program has become more focused on the skills students need to succeed.
"The community and the institution have become very supportive of us," Kenkel said. "The kids haven't changed. They're still the same kids with the same backgrounds and same challenges."
The program's alumni base now includes more than 350 graduates spread throughout the country. Graduates have gone on to complete doctorate degrees, teach at universities or work in strategic roles.
To mark Upward Bound's 25 years at Northwest, dozens of alumni returned to the campus for a reunion July 8, at the Gaunt House.
For more information about the Upward Bound program at Northwest go to http://www.nwmissouri.edu/dept/upwardbound/index.htm.
Mark Hornickel, Media Relations Specialist
firstname.lastname@example.org | 660.562.1704 | Fax: 660.562.1900
Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468