Upward Bound Shifts the Way it Provides Services During the Pandemic

Upward Boumd

Investing in the community is the work of the Upward Bound (UB) Program. This USF program has been assisting high school students from five local high schools develop their academic skills and prepare for college for the last 55 years.  Community contribution has always been included in USF’s strategic goals and is demonstrated by the tenure of this program.

UB is a federally funded program geared toward students who come from low-income families where neither parent has a degree or they may be in need of academic assistance.

Like other USF departments during the pandemic, UB was creative in providing solutions for their high school students, who typically come to campus for tutoring and special programming on  weekends and throughout the summer. To make the online shift staff had to work with parents to identify what resources students needed.

Initially, the virtual tutoring and mentoring was happening by conference calls since many students had phones versus computers. The USF community stepped up and helped with the program needs. The Library loaned laptops to students who needed computers, IT set up USF Net IDs so the high schoolers could access USF Technology such as Teams so they could actively participate with virtual tutoring and workshops. These resources helped the programs continued with twice a week tutoring for classes by subject and Saturday workshops and seminars all done online.

“It has been good because we have been taken out of our comfort zone and had to be creative in a new way. It has been a lot of work and also rewarding,” said Ray Cabrera, director of the Upward Bound Program. USF Dining has also been assisting with meals for students and their families to pick up, distributed by the UB staff. 

High Schoolers typically visit colleges on Spring Break and this year they took a virtual tour of four colleges. This summer the program will continue with virtual services such as Ivy League University tour and a National Zoo tour.

Recently, Cabrera was appointed President of the regional TRIO Association-SAEOPP (Southern Association of Opportunity Program Personnel) which represents eight states. The organization offers an array of professional development opportunities for TRIO staff and students along with hosting two federal grant trainings and two Upward Bound Programs in the State of Georgia.  He will be sitting on the National Board made up of 9 other regional presidents.

As the UB students move on to college, many will choose to get their degree at USF.  In March 2021, Cam Silver who is currently a part-time UB staff member successfully defended his doctoral dissertation. Silver started in the UB program as a high school senior 13 years ago.