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Upward Bound & Dean’s Future Scholars summer programs at the University


block_n-7495806-6570461Two programs at the University of Nevada, Reno are giving underrepresented students in the Truckee Meadows the opportunity to attend summer camp and become familiar with and comfortable in the campus setting. Through classes, mentoring, internships and college campus experiences, these camps are setting students up for continued academic success. While the programs vary in scope, the intent behind them is the same – offer low-income, first-generation students the tools needed to succeed on the path to higher education and career readiness.

Upward Bound
A federal TRiO Program, Upward Bound is celebrating its 48th year at the University of Nevada, Reno. The program supports high school students from first-generation, low income families in their pursuit of a college education. During the summer, Upward Bound holds a rigorous five-week summer academy for 14- to 17- year-old high school sophomores, juniors and seniors from six target high schools in Washoe and Lyon counties.

This summer, 63 students are living in Argenta Hall Sunday through Friday while receiving a complete, intensive college experience. In addition to attending academic courses, students are participating in co-curricular programming surrounding the summer’s focused theme, the Global Impact of World War II. Some students are also completing an on-campus internship, while others are learning about video production by producing a film for the national 50 year anniversary of Upward Bound.

“This program is about getting these students ahead for the coming year and pushing them to see what they can do,” Ellen Houston, director of Upward Bound programs, said. “Upward Bound is the most intensive college preparatory program for first-generation students. This program provides kids who don’t otherwise have the resources to attend summer camps with the opportunity to live on a college campus and get a summer experience. Our students get ahead of the curve, do well in school, graduate and matriculate to higher education.”

Upward Bound is 100 percent federally funded. The programs at the University are on a five-year grant cycle, with three grants, funded through 2017. This year, 186 students are being served by the program on the University’s campus. Mary Quiroga, an Upward Bound alumna, said the program changed her life and helped her identify who she was as a person and what she wanted for herself.

“Through Upward Bound and the summer program, I was able to experience what college was like,” Quiroga said. “I got to know the campus, went to different cultural events and really began building relationships with the other Upward Bound program participants. It made me feel like I got a head start.”

“This is a fantastic opportunity for our students,” Houston said. “This program makes the transition easier from high school to college because these students already know how to navigate a university campus and access the full slate of support resources at their disposal.”

In addition to time on campus, an important component for the Upward Bound program is the counselors assigned to each grant. Counselors see students several times a month at the high schools, as well as during monthly College Preparatory Saturday Sessions and during regularly scheduled tutoring services. Although Upward Bound only serves students through their high school years, the program continues to track former participants for six years post-graduation.
“In many instances, our counselors become like part of the student’s families,” Houston said. “They are an additional resource helping them overcome obstacles that often times get in the way of higher education.”
Dean’s Future Scholars
Dean’s Future Scholars is an academic outreach program housed in the University’s College of Education. The program is in its 14th year of serving its goal to increase the number of low-income, first-generation students graduating from high school, gaining access to higher education and entering a career in the field of education.
The six-week summer camp offers students programming that includes academics, with an intense focus on math, recreation and relationship building. Approximately 200 students attend camp daily from 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Each year, students are identified in sixth grade from selected Title I schools in Washoe County. Programming accounts for everything including transportation, food, academics and additional activities.

Funded through a variety of grants and private donations, DFS is a home-grown outreach program. It was established in 2000 by William Sparkman, the dean of the College of Education from 1998-2010. According to Mariluz Garcia, DFS director, the program offers a rich community for students, including mentors, most of whom are former DFS students.

“There are so many barriers these students have to overcome just to get to the summer program every day,” Garcia said. “Once they are here, we strive to provide them with the resources they’ll need to be successful. Math is a big focus for us because we know a lot of these kids need help in this area and research indicates that math course taking patterns are a major predictor for college enrollment and persistence. Our goal is to get them ahead and show them what they can achieve with a solid support system in place.”
Ohanna Turcios first became a DFS student in sixth grade. She is now a graduate assistant in the DFS office working toward her master’s degree in educational leadership.
“My 6th grade teacher suggested I enter into the program,” Turcios said. “It was a lot of fun and quickly became a family. Students here support one another whether they fail or succeed, and DFS is a great opportunity to continue onto higher education.”
The heart of the DFS program is providing an opportunity for University college students to give back to their community through long-term, consistent mentoring. During the academic school year, a team of 20-25 DFS mentors support 350 DFS program participants in more than 30 schools throughout the school district and the Pyramid Lake Reservation.
“Programs like Upward Bound and DFS greatly connect the community to the work that’s taking place at the University,” Garcia said. “If we lost one of these programs the community would feel it.”
For more information about either of these programs, visit www.unr.edu/education/centers/dfs or www.unr.edu/upward-bound.
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