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Harvey Mudd’s Upward Bound program is funded for another five years

by Andrew Alonzo | aalonzo@claremont-courier.com

Harvey Mudd College has announced its grant for the federally administered Upward Bound program was renewed by the U.S. Department of Education, funding the program for the next five years, through May 2027.

“It’s a sense of relief,” to be funded for the next half a decade, said Angie Covarrubias Aguilar, Harvey Mudd’s Upward Bound program director for the past 16 years.

Created by President Lyndon B. Johnson a year after the passage of the Educational Opportunity Act of 1964, Upward Bound has grown from a so-called experimental program to a nearly year-round learning resource. Harvey Mudd’s Upward Bound program is just one of 966 programs around the nation, 144 of them in California.

The mission of the program is to “help students develop the skills and motivation necessary to go on to a post-secondary education once they finish high school,” Aguilar said. “The population that we serve are usually first generation, low-income students.”

Angie Covarrubias Aguilar has been Harvey Mudd’s Upward Bound program director for the past 16 years. COURIER photo/Andrew Alonzo

The program began locally in 1968 at the Claremont University Center before moving to Harvey Mudd in 1972. Mudd is set to receive $774,690 in federal money for the upcoming 2022-23 school year. Though the amount varies, typical grant budgets are roughly $750,000 per year.

Each year, Harvey Mudd’s program serves 145 East San Gabriel Valley area high school students through partnerships with five high schools: Garey High School in Pomona; El Monte and Mountain View high schools in El Monte; South El Monte High; and La Puente’s Bassett High.

Numerous programs are established each school year and for six-weeks over the summer for rising 10th-, 11th- and 12th-graders.

Harvey Mudd tutors help the students both on and off campus. On select Saturdays, students are bussed from their high schools to Mudd for a morning of tutoring. Upward Bound tutors also travel weekly to the five high schools to further assist students.

Students can apply for the Upward Bound program during the spring of their freshman year.

“When our students are admitted into the program, they start a grade point average goal for themselves. And every six weeks, 12 weeks, and semester, when the report card comes out, we calculate their GPA,” Aguilar said. “If they’re receiving their [target] GPA, fantastic. But if they’re not, that’s why they have to come to those two hours, to get that additional help to help them meet their own goals.”

Over the summer, six-week courses and internships are offered for sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Cohorts are broken up by grade-level and have students learning various topics such as math, science, marine biology, and community engagement.

“We’re not giving out As and Bs, but we’re really, during this time, focusing on the [study] process,” Aguilar said. “What are the important study skills that maybe you’re not required to do in high school, but in college it’s second nature?

“We’re very big on teaching students about the growth mindset, how they can change their mindset, and what effort and the process of studying really can change for them.”

Last week the COURIER dropped by Harvey Mudd Assistant Director of Upward Bound Alfredo Rodriguez’s cohort of high school seniors who had completed virtual summer internships with the Library of Congress. The budding scholars were creating presentations for their exit interviews.

Among them was America Reyes, from El Monte High School, who talked about what she’s gained from her three years with Upward Bound. She joined in 2020, during her sophomore year and amid the pandemic, when life and school were still virtual. She’s enjoyed most of her time with Upward Bound but expressed disappointment knowing she didn’t get all she could have thanks to COVID-19.

“But we’re here now,” America said. “Even though we’re not getting the full experience, I’m still glad that I applied and continued with Upward Bound during virtual learning.”

America said the program has helped to improve her time management and planning skills. She remembers not having the best grades her freshman year, but showed major progress her junior year, and credited Upward Bound for the improvement. Once she graduates from El Monte High, she hopes to attend UCLA and become the first person in her family to go to college.

“I’m first, so I have to figure out how to apply to college myself,” America said. “But now I have Upward Bound that helps me. If you’re first generation like me, you’re going to get the help you need to apply to college if you don’t know what you’re doing.”

Once students graduate from high school, the program keeps tabs on them for six years, tracking how many of them earn college degrees and/or post-secondary degrees.

According to Harvey Mudd’s 2021 annual report, about 93 percent of the 145 students enrolled in the school’s Upward Bound program who were first generation college students came from low-income families. Aguilar also said 85 percent of the program’s graduating class of 2021 went on to post-secondary education.

While the numbers are great at painting the picture of success that the Upward Bound program brings, Aguilar said they only tell a part of the story.

“The story that it fails to tell is the human impact that Upward Bound has,” she said. “These are experiences … that can be life changing. That’s when they can discover their love for research, or they can discover, ‘Oh, wait, I can do math!’ Those little things really help them through the ups and downs of being an adolescent.”

Admission to Upward Bound for the 2022-23 school year has closed, but Aguilar encouraged parents, guardians, and students to take advantage of the program going forward. There is no application fee, and it is free to attend.

More info is at www2.ed.gov/programs/trioupbound/awards.html and hmc.edu/upward-bound/admission-upward-bound. Folks can also email upward_bound@hmc.edu or call (909) 621-8123 with questions.

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