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September 13, 2021

William Allen High School Students Find Their Place at KU

Upward Bound

trees surround the Old Main Clock Tower

Almost 30% of Kutztown University students are the first in their families to attend college.  Professor Jose Rosado knows what it’s like to be a first-generation college student and he’s used that experience to mentor underserved high school students through the grant-funded TRIO Upward Bound program at Kutztown University

What Does the Upward Bound Program Do?

Professor Jose Rosado, director, and Jennifer Richter, coordinator, lead the Upward Bound program at Kutztown University, which prepares and supports eligible high school students to succeed in postsecondary education.

One of the most memorable experiences through the Upward Bound program, for leaders and students alike, is the annual six-week summer program. Each year, students take academic enrichment courses at William Allen High School in English, math, science and Spanish during the first five weeks of the program. Each student is matched with a mentor and every Friday, Upward Bound organizers bring the students on college visits.

During the final week of the summer program, students live on the Kutztown University campus – eating in dining halls, sitting in on guest lectures from professors and other presenters, and participating in recreational activities – to get a feel for what the college experience is like.

Quotation Mark

To see the students on a college campus and watch them feel and believe that they belong there and that they can see themselves in that environment, I think that’s very rewarding,” Rosado said. “When they have those experiences and those opportunities to be on a college campus, I think it really helps them believe that college is something that they can realize.

Professor Jose Rosado

Richter has been the coordinator for the Upward Bound program for three years and has found joy watching students as they blossom through the program.

“I’ve gotten to watch students grow as they come in really shy and unsure of who they are and what direction they are going, and then leave with a solid plan. If you ask some of the students, one of their favorite memories of the program is being in these activities and blossoming – branching out, trying new things and meeting new people.”

Rosado loves watching first-generation students receive the mentorship and access to college resources that he knows are so important.

“Being able to provide these opportunities to students that would probably otherwise not have an opportunity to have these types of services -- to connect with these young people while they’re still in high school, and to help them prepare academically, socially and emotionally to make the transition from high school to college -- is amazing,” Rosado said.  “Since most of the students in our program are first-generation college students, they don’t have those people within their support group or family that have travelled down this path.”

As a part of the 2021 summer program, KU Director of Health Promotion Fran Cortez Funk presented to the Upward Bound students about how to improve personal well-being.

Image of Frances Cortez Funk speaking in front of a screen with a student's head visible on the left side

“The students in Upward Bound are our future. The students are passionate, visionary and risk-takers in moving forward to reach their educational goals. I am originally from the Allentown area and I am always thrilled to be invited to work with them,” Funk said. “I am a first- generation college student. Both my parents, English was their second language. It’s always nice to give back to young minds in the Allentown area.” -Fran Cortez Funk

Keeping Students Engaged During the Pandemic

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Upward Bound program organizers encountered several problems. How will students who don’t have access to proper technology continue to learn remotely? How can we help students with their emotional needs? How can we keep students engaged from a distance?

There were many students involved with the Upward Bound program who didn’t have adequate access to laptops or Wi-Fi when the pandemic first hit and remote learning first started. The program stepped in and connected students with a local nonprofit organization, Unidos, to secure access to Chromebooks and Wi-Fi hotspots.

“On top of the pandemic, the protests in response to social injustice issues struck a chord with many of the students in the program,” Rosado said. “We were able to address the students’ emotional and psychological needs by having open, respectful conversations, making students aware of different resources in the community in regard to food insecurity, and providing numbers of different community-based support agencies that could address their needs or their families’ needs.”

Organizers in the Upward Bound program also connect with students by offering tutoring and other academic support services, hosting movie nights, dropping off lunch to students once a week, coordinating distribution of supplies for any special programming, and continuing to meet any needs that arise.

You can learn more about the Upward Bound program on their webpage.

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