The University’s Upward Bound Math-Science Program (UBMS) has received a $2.5 million grant that will be distributed over the course of five years to support the STEM education of low-income and first-generation students in Meriden, New Britain, and recently, Middletown.
Upward Bound (UB), a federal program often run out of institutions of higher education, was founded in 1965. The program is primarily dedicated to educational support for first-generation and low-income students around the country, specifically in helping direct students towards pursuing higher education. The University’s chapter is an Upward Bound Math-Science program and has existed at the University for more than 50 years. It focuses on promoting student interest and skills in science, technology, and math, and has regional ties to Central Connecticut.
The University’s UBMS offers a six-week summer program on campus, in addition to providing students access to college tours and to college fairs. It also gives opportunities for one-on-one mentorship and provides aid throughout the college and financial aid application process. The University’s UBMS serves 60 Middletown students throughout the year, in addition to students from other cities. Enrolled students are supported through graduation, and are tracked once they enroll in secondary education.
However, the Upward Bound program at the University was severely diminished in 2012, when the program did not make the cut for federal funding and relied primarily on local donations. This support came from organizations such as the United Way (which also has a University branch), the Middletown Youth Services Bureau, Community Foundation of Middlesex County, and AT&T. The grants provided by these organizations allowed Upward Bound to continue operating on a smaller scale in the cities of Meriden and New Britain, but Middletown-centered programs were too expensive for the curtailed program. Nonetheless, since this grant, the Middletown chapter has opened up again.
Miguel Peralta, Director of the University’s Upward Bound Math-Science program, explained the University’s function in the program in an email to the Argus.
“Wesleyan’s role is to oversee the programs; to ensure the program is in compliance with federal (and university) regulations, and confirm that the program meets its goals,” he explained. “The university has done a great job supporting the programs, including supporting the initiative to write a grant to support the Middletown community. We fall under the Equity and Inclusion department, which has provided opportunities for our students to interact with Wesleyan students from similar backgrounds.”
Upward Bound is one of a group of programs called TRIO, which is run out of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education. In addition to Upward Bound, the University’s McNair program aims to support students from underrepresented groups, also a TRIO program.
The Office of Postsecondary Education’s website explains the overarching, national goal of the Upward Bound Math-Science program.
“The goal of the program is to help students recognize and develop their potential to excel in math and science and to encourage them to pursue postsecondary degrees in math and science, and ultimately careers in the math and science profession,” the site reads.
Peralta elaborated on this purpose.
“Students from low-income and first-generation backgrounds enrolled in the program have benefitted by the belief that they too can get a college education, despite the obstacles they face,” he noted. “It exposes and supports students who otherwise wouldn’t have the information & resources needed to get and thrive in college. The program gives the students and their families the added supports and resources that their more affluent peers already have. With the summer program, it also exposes students to a college campus and what it has to offer. Students are made to feel as they are not just capable of being on college students, but should expect it of themselves.”
Peralta also explained that Upward Bound Math-Science plays a central role in the relationship between the University and Middletown public schools, with the staff of UBMS working alongside staff at the high school.
“The leadership at Middletown Public Schools has also been very supportive of the program and our students,” he noted.
An article in the Hartford Courant mentions Nasim Aouji, a 17-year-old senior at Maloney High School in Meriden, who has been a part of the Upward Bound Program since his freshman year in high school. Aouji attributes his current position of college-readiness to UB’s role in his education.
“It made me think about how I want to go about my business when I’m in school. It made me challenge myself,” Aouji is quoted as saying in the article. “[Before Upward Bound] I didn’t know anything about the college process.”
Peralta, too, commented on the important role Upward Bound played in his life.
“I am a graduate of the Wesleyan Upward Bound program,” he explained. “Without the program, I wouldn’t have gone to college, despite having the grades and skills to do so. UB pushed me to prepare myself and then filled a role that my parents simply couldn’t because of their lack of knowledge of the intricacies of how college and the application process works. The program helped me in identifying schools, applying for them and financial aid, while exposing me to not only what college has to offer, but different perspectives that helped widen my worldview. My story is similar to a lot of the students we serve, and why I believe programs like these are necessary.”
Emmy Hughes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.