Frances Bennett Clark, who directed the Upward Bound program at West Virginia University for 10 years, is the new leader for both the Upward Bound and Talent Search programs at Virginia Tech.

The federally funded TRIO programs encourage potential first-generation college students to stick with their high school studies and develop goals to attend college.

Clark said, “The ability to make a student feel as if you really see who they really are and that you understand their struggles, goes a long way toward calming a student in distress and helping them see available options.”

Thousands of students have benefited from services offered by the programs since Upward Bound was established at the university in 1967 and Talent Search in 1973. The population is vulnerable because more than a quarter of first-generation students come from households earning less than $20,000. More than half of such students leave college without a degree because they’ve run out of money, according to a recent report from the Institute of Education Sciences.

Clark earned a master’s in political communications from Keele University in Staffordshire, England, and a bachelor’s in history as well as a degree in journalism from West Virginia University (WVU). She also holds a master’s in counseling from WVU and is a licensed mental-health counselor. Clark is originally from Hampton, Virginia.

In a short YouTube video, Clark describes the type of student Upward Bound can most dramatically transform:

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A year ago, Virginia Tech’s Talent Search program, which sees more than 80 percent of its participants enroll in colleges or universities, earned a $1.63 million, five-year extension of its funding grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Upward Bound will receive more than $5 million over the next five years to assist families through three regionally focused programs: Southwest Virginia serving more than 100 students in nine high schools, Roanoke City Schools serving 60 students, and an additional 60 students served at Salem High School.

The Upward Bound/Talent Search programs are administered jointly as part of Outreach and International Affairs at Virginia Tech.

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