“I had been meeting with parents during an assessment,” said Pamela Osborne, Assistant Director of MSU Denver’s Upward Bound. “We could hear the screaming and it didn’t sound like bad screaming [laughs]. It sounded like ‘oh my god’ and that was [the call] we had been waiting for. It was a very exciting moment.”
The federal TRiO Upward Bound program is designed to assist low-income and first-generation college-bound high school students to complete high school, then enter and complete a post-secondary education.
After the Department of Education had reduced funding for the federal TRiO program to $8 million for the 2011-2012 school year, over 1,500 grant proposals were submitted. Then, more than 300 programs were forced to close their doors while others had to scale back their services. MSU Denver was one of five schools nationwide to come out of a “second funding band” — a gray area where the program administrators did not know if they would be receiving additional funds or not.
“The bad thing is that we’re still level funded. The Department of Education is asking us to serve more students,” Osborne said. “We’re going to be serving 85 students in lieu of serving 73 with less money. We’re going to be a lot more diligent in making sure that we do what we need to do even if the schools aren’t doing what they need to do.”
Another stipulation from the DOE is that MSU Denver’s Upward Bound must now accept the majority of its students from North High School, the lowest achieving school in Denver Public Schools. In the past, any number of students could be chosen from any of five DPS high schools.
Upward Bound will have to cut back on some services, including field trips and retreats to the mountains, but program directors aren’t letting the low funds faze them.
Osborne is on a mission to find outside funding from organizations that have hosted Upward Bound activities in the past. Both Osborne and program director Paulette McIntosh are reiterating to their students that they are going to be held to a standard level of excellence.
“We have our jobs cut out for us,” said McIntosh. “It’s an opportunity for us to do things differently than we have over the past five years. It’s an opportunity to prove to the department they did not make a mistake refunding this grant. The need is still high here — the students really have a need for this program.”
Kiara Roberts, an MSU Denver senior and Upward Bound alum, was excited to hear about the renewed funding.
“I just thought about all the kids that would be affected,” Roberts said. “I couldn’t tell you how many people I still talk to from this program who are actually doing good. [Upward Bound] were like parental figures for me. There is not a time I’ve come and didn’t get the help that I needed, even today.”
On Sept. 14, Upward Bound hosted registration for returning high school students in the program. Registration is still open for newcomers until they reach their limit of 85 students. The program opened Sept. 17 with supplemental classes, tutoring, college preparedness courses, and campus internships.
Osborne and McIntosh both got emotional when they had to think back and talk about the possible closure of their program for their students, but now with additional funding they still hold that MSU Denver’s Upward Bound is the “best kept secret on campus.”