Making a Difference:
Nestled on the corner of Stocker Street and Don Felipe Drive is an Upward Bound office filled with activity.
Andrew Toney, project coordinator, is busy helping high school students plan their futures as they focus on the curriculum the program offers to prepare them for the colleges of their dreams and to ensure that they have a strong finish to their high school careers.
As part of the Volunteers of America’s TRIO program, Upward Bound is a no-cost, federally funded college prep program that assists high school students with the transition from high school to college. Services offered through their Saturday Academy include: tutoring, financial literacy, SAT/ACT Prep, assistance with college applications and financial aid and academic and cultural field trips.
Participants for Upward Bound Los Angeles come from target schools such as Crenshaw High School, Dorsey High School and Washington Preparatory High School.
“Programs like Upward Bound are important because they help close the gap in education by assisting those who are from a socio-economic disadvantage background to compete with their peers who have access to resources,” Toney said. “Most of the students who participate in our program are typically low-income, first-generation college students and they often tell me that they credit the program with changing the course of their lives.”
Myrna Joseph, educational group director, has worked for the program for the last 37 years, and believes that much of the program’s success can be attributed to its hands-on approach.
“We have staff stationed at the schools that look at their course structure, grade performance and absentee records and make sure that they are taking the right courses for college,” she said.
“One-on-one contact is really important. They need to know that they have someone who is supportive of what they are doing and are committed to helping them reach their educational goals,” said Joseph.
In addition to educational activities, Upward Bound also focuses on the student’s personal and social development through a variety of field trips and activities. This summer, participants visited Washington D.C., where they met with representatives from Sen. Kamala Harris’ office. In the coming weeks they will attend a five-day civil rights and college tour in Atlanta, as well as a day trip to Catalina Island.
“It’s a matter of exposure and experience,” Joseph said. “They need to know what it is to go to a concert, a play, to a theater performance, to Disneyland, to Magic Mountain, where they have ‘Physics Day.’ Normally, their families cannot afford to take them to those places and we want to create that balance, we want to take a holistic approach.”
In addition, Upward Bound offers a variety of parenting workshops that teach parents about the college application process and financial aid so that they can help their child with any problems they may have.
Joseph and Toney hope that the more parents and the community know about what Upward Bound has to offer, they more they will want to be involved.
“People in the community need to volunteer at programs like Upward Bound,” Joseph said. “They need to get involved in their local schools and just see how they can help.”
Joseph believes that if the parents, community and students really take advantage of the program that it will be a road map to so many future successes.
“Our students have to understand that things are not going to just come to them,” said Joseph. “They have to beat the odds. We teach our students that their hard work will pay off. They can be engineers, surgeon, environmentalists; they can be anything they want to be because they have the God given talent.”
For more information about Upward Bound Los Angeles, call (323) 290-5371.
Organization: Upward Bound, Los Angeles
Name and Title: Myrna Joseph, Educational Group Director
Andrew Toney, Project Coordinator