Area High School Students Benefit from UB

When the 2014-15 school year begins in a few weeks, 120 students from nine school districts in the Arkansas River Valley will be better prepared for their course work because of the summer Upward Bound program offered at Arkansas Tech University.

A five-week curriculum that focused on math, science and English was followed by an educational trip to St. Louis for students representing the Atkins, Danville, Dardanelle, Dover, Hector, Lamar, Pottsville, Two Rivers and Western Yell County school districts.

“This was the best group,” said Jill Hendricks, director of Upward Bound programs at Arkansas Tech. “They were well-behaved, positive and they had a great attitude. This is basically continuing school for five weeks, and you never heard these kids complain. They were excited to be here. We start every day at 7:30 a.m. with breakfast and it goes until recreation is over at 9 p.m. each night.”

Upward Bound is a federally-funded TRIO program that helps high school students with identified barriers to higher education prepare for college. The program, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2014, began as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty.

Arkansas Tech has served area high school students through Upward Bound since receiving its initial grant for the program in 2003.

In addition to Hendricks, target school liaisons Shawna Davis and Kao Vang along with administrative assistant Mary Bolen administer Upward Bound at Arkansas Tech under the direction of the Office of Academic Affairs.

“A student changes the most during the summer program,” said Hendricks, who has worked in Upward Bound at Arkansas Tech since 2005 and has served as its director since 2009. “I think it’s because they’re around so many other people. It brings their personality out. We give a coming out of their shell award at the end of every summer. There are always kids who arrive very quiet and shy, and by the time the program is complete they are very vocal and interactive. It’s cool to see that.”

Participants include students preparing to enter grades 10-12 and recently graduated high school students, who can earn six hours of college course credit during the summer Upward Bound program.

The summer programming is complemented by Upward Bound advising, tutoring and Saturday cultural programming throughout the traditional academic year. Davis and Vang make regular visits to the high schools included in the program to work with students during their lunch breaks.

“Our mission is to help these students be successful in high school, go to college and ultimately get that college degree,” said Hendricks. “We have students that are graduating from college and either entering their career field or going on to get their master’s degree. That is a rewarding experience. That’s why we do what we do and why we are passionate about what we do.”

For more information about Upward Bound at Arkansas Tech, visit

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