Mikey Gatica’s interest in the Upward Bound program at Arkansas Tech University was piqued by accident.
“I really didn’t know what it was,” said Gatica. “I heard it on the intercom at school and I thought it was a club where you jumped. I thought that sounded pretty cool, but apparently it was not that.”
After overcoming that initial disappointment, Gatica took the figurative leap of applying for Upward Bound. He’s never regretted it.
“I was really shy back then,” said Gatica, a member of the Dardanelle High School Class of 2021 who plans on studying digital marketing at Arkansas Tech. “I went from not doing anything to coming here and living in the dorm. Throughout the years, a group leaves and a group enters. You make a lot of connections. I’ve learned that I have to be on time and meet those deadlines.”
The Upward Bound classic program at ATU serves students from the public high schools in Atkins, Dover, Hector and Lamar. ATU’s Upward Bound math and science program is for public high school students from Danville, Dardanelle, Two Rivers and Western Yell County.
Participants in the federally-funded initiatives are exposed to a variety of resources and experiences designed to prepare them for college enrollment and success. Students selected for Upward Bound must meet income guidelines as set by the federal government and/or be a potential first-generation college student.
From June 1-July 8, 100 ATU Upward Bound students are participating in a summer program that allows them to live and learn on the Arkansas Tech campus in Russellville.
Khloi Turner, who will be a junior at Dardanelle High School in fall 2021, interviewed to join Upward Bound at Arkansas Tech during her ninth grade year and was subsequently chosen for inclusion in the program.
“I was immediately greeted by people who were welcoming, open, exciting and fun,” said Turner. “You come here and you do not leave without smiling 50 times. It was the perfect fit. Upward Bound makes Tech feel like home.”
Turner plans on attending Arkansas Tech and hopes to go on to law school so she can assist children in the foster care system.
“I’ve always been outgoing, but Upward Bound has completely rooted me in people,” said Turner. “Upward Bound showed me that everyone is on the same road. Different backgrounds, different groups, different social classes…Upward Bound taught me none of that matters and it never will. It doesn’t matter how you got to the road you are on. You can’t judge people because you don’t know what they’ve come through. They’re here, and everyone deserves to be respected and to be your friend.”
When Carly Chance looks back on the ninth grade version of herself, she sees someone who needed a friend and the services provided by Upward Bound.
“I wanted to go to college but I didn’t know anything about it,” said Chance, who will be a senior at Atkins High School in fall 2021 and plans to study business in college. “Before, I was very anti-social and didn’t speak to many people unless I was spoken to. When I joined Upward Bound, I met people from different schools and places. It helped me find myself. I became more social, and it taught me so much about college.
“I feel like if I hadn’t received this opportunity, I wouldn’t be going to college,” continued Chance. “Upward Bound made me who I am and brought out a good side of me. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that you never get the chance to do again.”
Jill Hendricks is the director of Upward Bound programs at Arkansas Tech. Shawna Davis and Annie McNeely serve in the role of target school liaison. Lauren Pipkin is the unit’s administrative assistant.
“It has helped me grow academically and personally,” said Ana Camacho, a 2021 graduate of Danville High School who will begin her pursuit of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree at Arkansas Tech in fall 2021. “I got to meet new people and become more social. I didn’t know a lot about college. I knew I wanted to get a degree, but I’m a first-generation student so all of the college terms are a new thing. I would encourage others to apply because it will get you out of your comfort zone and provide you with new perspectives by meeting new people.”
Tim Ingram wasn’t sure if college was the right fit for him before he became involved in Upward Bound. Now, he’s a graduate of Hector High School with 46 hours of college credit that he earned through concurrent study. He plans on majoring in physical education at Arkansas Tech with a goal of becoming a coach and teacher at the high school level.
“It’s increased my confidence,” said Ingram. “Upward Bound helped me a lot with the tutoring that is offered after school. The Upward Bound staff are great mentors for us. I can call or text them, and they’re always there to help. I’ve become good friends with people from Lamar and Dardanelle I never would have known without Upward Bound. It has opened so many doors.”