“My grades are the best they’ve ever been.” — Angel, sophomore
“It’s made me make more responsible decisions and think seriously about my life.” – Kaitlyn, junior
“It has helped me expand my options and shown me other things that I can do to achieve the goals I want to achieve. I now know how much more important my grades are and it has helped me have extra time to work on my schooling and get ready for my future.” – Seyara, junior
“It’s helped me stay focused in school, helped me keep my mind set on what my goals are and it’s taught me the steps to achieve my goals.” – Corin, senior
“I’ve learned life lessons and skills that I will hold onto and remember: like working and talking to people you normally wouldn’t, being a leader in a crowd, the importance of my decisions now, and time management.” – Destiny, senior
What are all of these students referring to? Their experience as a participant in Upward Bound.
Upward Bound is a federally funded U.S. Department of Education TRiO program hosted in ten high schools throughout the state of Alaska. Nikiski Middle-High School (NMHS) is fortunate enough to be one of those ten schools. In order to qualify as an Upward Bound participant, students must meet certain criteria including coming from a low income household and, or being a first generation college student. The program is designed to offer motivated students extra support and guidance throughout high school as they prepare to enter post-secondary education. Upward Bound really opens doors for students. When students were asked what they have learned about as participants in Upward Bound, they stated that they’ve learned about all sorts of college-related topics including scholarships, college entrance exams (ACT, SAT), the college application process, the FAFSA and student loans, study abroad opportunities, dorm-life, etc. Taylaur, a NMHS junior, sums it up when she said that, “In Upward Bound, students learn about adulting.”
All of this adulting focused education takes place at twice-weekly Upward Bound meetings. On Tuesdays, NMHS Upward Bound students work with their coordinator, Nicole Gaunt (Ms. G), covering college-related topics and checking in with their accountability partners to set and review progress towards their goals. Thursday meetings focus on grade checks and study hall. This emphasis on grades and goals are key as Upward Bound students are expected to strive for at least a 3.0 GPA. This past semester, NMHS’s group celebrated when nine of 14 students made the honor roll!
For their hard work and dedication, students are compensated both financially, with the chance to earn up to $40 month, as well as with opportunities to participate in the Unmanned Arial Vehicle (UAV) project, in cultural fieldtrips and in the Upward Bound summer programs at UAF. The summer programs allow students to experience living and learning on a college campus while working on academics, earning high school and even college credit, and exploring what Fairbanks has to offer.
While the summer programs are the icing on the cake, a lot of work goes into the day-to-day challenge of maintaining good grades as a high school student while preparing for the future. When NMHS Upward Bound students were asked to describe how participating in the school-year Upward Bound program with Ms. G has impacted their lives, a few common themes shine through: positivity, opportunity, encouragement and support.
“Upward Bound has taught me that getting help is okay.” — Avery, junior
“It has helped me reach my goals because I feel like I can get help from any of the people in there. I always feel welcome and all of them help each other stick to our goals. It has helped me have inspiration to keep my grades up.” – Lauren, junior
“Being in Upward Bound has given me the drive to pay more attention in my life, and focus on the goals I set.” – Lochlan, junior
“There’s just something about encouragement, and someone else wanting you to do something that is motivating and confidence building. My advisor cares about my success in life, and has helped me acquire skills and strategies to use while in college and beyond.”— Destiny, senior
“It’s helped me to try really hard to keep my grades up and apply for college. It’s given me a nice push.” – Shayne, senior
Sometimes we all need that little push to set and work towards our future goals. Nikiski Middle-High School is very proud of our Upward Bound students and program. It is inspiring to watch as these students to learn and grow, transitioning from high school and adolescence into college and adulthood.
Story contributed by Nicole Gaunt, School Counselor, NMHS