Three grants from the U.S. Department of Education will enable Virginia Tech’s Upward Bound program to continue serving low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented high school students.

The extension of current grant funding is worth more than $2.3 million over the next five years, and the program is also funded for two new partnerships.

The Upward Bound program, part of the portfolio of TRIO programs in Outreach and International Affairs, will now work with students from nine schools in Southwest Virginia. The new grants, each worth $1.3 million, will connect students at Roanoke City public schools – William Fleming High School and Patrick Henry High School – with a new Upward Bound program for the next five years. Salem High School students will be included as well.

Upward Bound, which enters its 50th year on campus, is a federally funded program designed to increase the rate at which low-income and potential first-generation college students finish high school and move seamlessly into higher education.

“Navigating the pathway toward higher education is challenging for all students and families, but is profoundly challenging for disadvantaged and first-generation college students who lack experience and context regarding the process,” said Alan Seibert, superintendent of Salem City Schools. “The Upward Bound grant will provide our students with the support they need to achieve their college and career goals.”

The new funding will increase Upward Bound’s reach to more than 200 students throughout the greater Southwest Virginia region. Funding for the grants could potentially increase by three percent in the next few months.

“Upward Bound enables students at a young age to begin envisioning college as a possibility,” said Susan Short, associate vice president for engagement, who oversees the TRIO programs. “Over the course of the program, it’s exciting to see them grow more confident as they gain skills and begin to set higher goals for themselves.”

The benefits Upward Bound students receive include:

  • introduction to a campus environment
  • a six-week residential summer camp
  • college-preparation workshops
  • academic tutorials
  • fee waivers for standardized tests and college applications

College tours, both in and out of state, are also part of the offerings, as well as exposure to classroom technology that may not be present in students’ own schools. Some of the students enroll at Virginia Tech after they attend the six-week summer residential program on campus, while others find that a different institution is their best fit.

Jason Puryear, assistant director of the Upward Bound program, said, “We help students navigate the college search and application process because we understand the many barriers that may stand in their way. Our objective is to help find the place where they will have the best chance for success, whether that institution is Virginia Tech, Radford University, Virginia Western Community College, or an institution outside of this geographic region.”

Written by Melissa McKeown

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