Some rising college students may be wary of the roads ahead, but graduates of the Upward Bound program at Prince George’s Community College are proving to be well equipped.

The specialized program provides educational enrichment and college prep to area high school students. Late last month, the program held a closing ceremony to cap the summer session.

The six-week summer course and sessions throughout the school year reinforce subjects like math, English, science and foreign languages. The students also participate in education workshops and learn strategies for successful test-taking.
And the work appears to be paying off. Since its inception in the county in 2004, the program has met its objectives to ensure federal funding. The U.S. Department of Education requires leaders of the program to ensure at least 75 percent of students are proficient in state assessments in reading, language arts and math and, maintain an 80 percent retention rate.

Upward Bound also has to make sure 80 percent of its graduates enroll in post secondary schools and remain enrolled for a second academic year. “We all can definitely say that there’s a need for these kinds of programs for high school students considering the trends that we are seeing where students are dropping out by the dozens and graduation rates are declining,” Korey Dean, the program’s manager told the AFRO in a recent interview. “We aim for our students to receive a diploma and not a certificate.”

Dean says although he was not a product of the program, he firmly believes in its benefits. He gleaned experience working with an affiliated program out of state while he was in college at Florida International University. “Once I graduated, I realized that it was something that I really believed in,” he said.

Recently, the program launched a new course in financial literacy, which Dean says will surely benefit them in the future, especially in college. “We find that students get these jobs and unfortunately they have nothing to show during the academic school year because they end up spending it all right after they earned it, so we teach them about investment and the importance of managing their funds wisely,” Dean said.

Ultimately, the program has a track record of success. A bevy of students have gone on to become first-generation college graduates and many have returned to become tutors. But despite the achievements, Dean says the program still has its challenges.

He explained that while they consistently meet their benchmarks in retention, it’s still difficult to maintain. Additionally, he said he’d like to see more parent involvement.

But overall, he says that he would really like to see more programs akin to Upward Bound in the area. “There’s a group of students who are not able to receive these types of services and it makes it very challenging in our selection process,” he said. “, I’d like to see more funding, more program opportunities and more math and science initiatives.”