Futures within reach: BCPS students prepare for college with help from CCBC Upward Bound


"I'm going to be completely honest," said a hesitant Jamie Baldwin as she debated verbalizing the words that, to her, needed to follow but, out of love and respect, perhaps shouldn't.

“My mom forced me to join.”

With those six words, the truth was out: when the opportunity to enroll in the Upward Bound program at the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) presented itself, Baldwin didn’t jump at it. Instead, only after her mother’s repeated encouragement, she reluctantly agreed, obtaining an application and submitting the required personal essay and two recommendation letters.

“I knew that, if I didn’t get the papers, my mom would get them,” she said. “So I just got them on my own.”
Yet, two years later, the rising Grade 11 student at Overlea High School no longer feels the same disinterest in Upward Bound that she once did.

“Now that I’m in the program,” she said, “I’m glad I’m here.”

Interestingly, Baldwin isn’t alone; that feeling of gratitude, of understanding the value of an opportunity almost missed, is one all too familiar to participants in Upward Bound.

Bridging the gap

A federally funded program offered at higher education institutions across the country, Upward Bound prepares high school students from low-income households for college through activities that promote personal and professional development. At CCBC, the program is divided into three academies – ACE (Arts, Communication, and Entertainment), STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), and NGS (Ninth Grade Success). Between its Catonsville and Dundalk locations, the CCBC program serves Baltimore County Public Schools students primarily from Chesapeake, Dundalk, Kenwood, Lansdowne, Milford Mill Academy, Overlea, Patapsco, and Woodlawn high schools.

“We provide [BCPS students] with academic and cultural enrichment, tutorial services, and college and career exploration,” said Kelly Kelley, director of CCBC Dundalk Upward Bound.

During the 2014-2015 school year, students in the program attended a Saturday instructional academy, completed SAT preparation, and visited local colleges, among other activities. But, when the school year ended this past June, those involved in the program’s summer component set out with new goals in mind.

Working as a team

At the start of the season, the 34 students enrolled in the program’s summer collaborated on a theme that not only would relate to their academy material but also would set the focus for their culminating projects. After much deliberation, they chose “Eat, Move, Live.”

“This theme challenged our students to examine healthy living from a mind, body, and soul perspective,” said Kelley. “Each academy was given a piece of the theme.”

Responsible for “Eat,” “Move,” and “Live,” respectively, the NGS, STEM, and ACE academies participated in a combination of internships, lectures, and workshops intended to teach them more about their parts of the theme. Each academy also completed a summer reading assignment, offering students additional insights into their topics.

Toward the end of the summer, the academies began work on their culminating projects – for NGS, a cookbook; for STEM, a replica of a skating rink; and for ACE, a video featuring several students in the program.

“[My staff and I were] working with the communication kids to produce a news magazine show that highlights the academies,” said Eric Dodson, manager of BCPS-TV, about the cable channel’s role in the ACE academy’s project.

Though eight students in the Communication and Entertainment pathway of the ACE academy led production of the show as BCPS-TV interns this summer, approximately 15 students helped to complete the project. Their finished product, “UB Live,” is available for viewing here.

“[I’m] proud of the work I’ve done,” said Monique Scott, a rising Grade 12 student at Milford Mill Academy, about her contributions to the show. “I learned about new foods that are healthier for me.”

Added Baldwin: “I learned how to better take care of my body.”

New knowledge about healthy habits, however, wasn’t the only takeaway for the students as they recently celebrated the end of another year in Upward Bound. In fact, for many, the greater takeaway was understanding the possibilities now open to them because of their experiences in the program.

Discovering what’s possible

Type “college costs today” into any online search engine, and up comes a seemingly endless supply of articles, all pointing to one bleak, but honest, picture: prices are high – and still on the rise. While part-time jobs, paid internships, and work study are all options to help lighten the burden of college expenses, those opportunities often lack a crucial element that could lower the price of higher education from the start: preparation directly related to academic pursuits. In the struggle to reduce college costs, then, college preparatory programs, like Upward Bound, triumph.

“Upward Bound... prepares students for college and helps them succeed in high school,” said Ty’Ana Daniels, a Grade 10 student at Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts who participated in the program for a second time this past school year.

Added Scott: “The Upward Bound program helps you learn and better yourself. It gives you confidence that you can do better [so that] you don’t just settle for a C or a D but try to work harder.”

What’s significant here is the program’s emphasis on developing the skills necessary for students to achieve in high school. Once honed, those skills, including communication, teamwork, and time management, follow students to college – and, from there, to careers. The effect is preparation for lifelong success.

For a case in point, take Daniels, who uses her experiences in Upward Bound to explain.

“I learned that there is more to just going to college,” she said. “I learned that you have to be assertive [because] getting your name out in the open so people know who you are will bring more opportunities for you.”

For the Upward Bound program’s part in providing the first of those opportunities and leading them toward futures that once seemed out-of-reach, Daniels, Scott, and yes, even Baldwin are thankful.

“The most rewarding part,” said Daniels, “will come after all four years of being here when I reach my goal of actually going to college, knowing I wouldn’t have been able to make it happen without the help of Upward Bound.”

Added Scott: “I just want to say thank you to everyone who helped me throughout the time that I was here – you guys really opened my eyes for me and my future.”

And Baldwin, who is “looking forward to another great year of success” to make her and her mother “proud,” said, “Not everybody gets this opportunity... This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance.”

To learn more about the CCBC Upward Bound program and how to apply, click here.

Story by Blake Lubinski, Department of Communications and Community Outreach. Photos by CCBC Dundalk Upward Bound staff.
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