Upward Bound 2009 photoSusanne Ruminski, left, a senior majoring in criminal justice and sociology, works with Buffalo Public Schools teacher Barbara Pitkin to prepare a math class for Upward Bound students.

Upward Bound Prepares High-Need Students for College

Buffalo State has received continued funding from the U.S. Department of Education for its Upward Bound program, a federally funded project that offers intensive need-based collegiate preparation to high school students. Dozens of students are now in the midst of a six-week summer program.

This year’s students will be at Buffalo State through August 13, living in Tower 1 Sunday through Friday nights. The program, which serves high school students from low-income families and from families in which neither parent holds a bachelor’s degree, is designed to increase the rates at which students complete high school and enroll in and graduate from college.

“The students learn pretty quickly that the program means business, and that this isn’t like a typical summer camp,” said Don Patterson, director of Upward Bound at Buffalo State. “But they quickly form close friendships. And most realize that if they stay committed, they can go on to college and do great things. That’s the goal.”

Buffalo State is one of a few colleges locally and one of hundreds nationally to offer Upward Bound. The U.S. Department of Education has cited Buffalo State’s chapter among the top 10 percent in the nation for results. Patterson said the college enrollment rate for program participants exceeded 90 percent last year.

The college chapter began in 1986 and today primarily serves low-income, first-generation-college students from East, Lafayette, and McKinley high schools.

A typical day for an Upward Bound student begins at 6:00 a.m. and entails six one-hour classes, recreation time, meals, creative classes such as art and music in the evening, study time, and about 90 minutes of supervised free time. No television, cell phones, or video games are allowed.

Patterson works with a dedicated staff of three throughout the year but hires about 30 people to help with the summer program. Some are Buffalo Public Schools teachers; others are Buffalo State undergraduate students who serve as teacher’s aides, tutors, and resident assistants.

Participants take classes in English, math, science, and Spanish. Patterson said the overall experience is much like college.

“The students have to travel from building to building on campus to get to their classes,” he said. “And they’re ultimately accountable for themselves. If they act up or don’t do their work, they don’t stay. Upward Bound is a serious commitment.”

And that commitment stretches well beyond the summer. During the school year, students meet with Upward Bound staff members up to four times a week after school for tutoring and every other Saturday for a special training program. Juniors and seniors receive help with SAT and college admission preparation as well as financial-aid planning. They also partake in a group road trip in the spring to tour colleges. Patterson said the Upward Bound program cannot recruit students to Buffalo State, but many do apply.

Patterson credits the Academic and Students Affairs Office for the program’s continued success for the past 23 years. He specifically thanks Hal Payne, vice president for student affairs, and Charles Kenyon, dean of students, who helped write a grant in 2007 that secured more than $2 million in federal funding through 2012. The funding allows Upward Bound at Buffalo State to serve about 80 students each year.

Patterson encourages faculty and staff to consider teaching a summer course. He also has students occasionally observe college courses and would like to increase those opportunities in the future.

“We see the potential in teenagers,” Patterson said. “With a little bit of guidance, they can go far.”