Spotlight On: Upward Bound

For our final Spotlight of the year, Ellen Rice looks at a program that has benefited countless Holyoke students over the years: Upward Bound!


Current students enrolled in Upward Bound pose for the camera!

Unfortunately, for many youths today, college can seem like a distant dream, if not an impossibility. Maybe because they can’t afford it, or maybe because they just don’t know what to do to get in, because they’ve never had family go to college before.

For these such students, there is hope: there is a program called Upward Bound. Upward Bound is a college preparatory program for students who are first generation (parents didn’t go to college) or whose parents qualify as “low income.” “Low income” is determined on a case by case basis. So, for example, a two person household making $40,000/year wouldn’t be considered low income but two parents with four kids making the same amount would be.

These are students who are identified as in danger of dropping out or not going to college… but who end up going to college. In fact all of the students who use Upward Bound’s service end up getting accepted to at least one 4-year-college.

How do they accomplish this? Well, it’s quite simple. Upward Bound helps students with documents they need for college, like the FAFSA or the Common App. It takes students on college trips so they can get a real sense of what kind of school they’re looking for. And, they also offer tutoring to students whose grades fall below a certain point.

Upward Bound isn’t just about college. It also works to get its students active in the community. Students who do Upward Bound are required to do at least 50 hours of community service. This community service can be anything, from working with the elderly at the Soldiers’ Home, to working with children at the Holyoke Children’s museum, or just volunteering at a concession stand for local youth basketball games. Upward Bound is also strong on social justice, making sure the students know about issues of inequality in the world and how they can help.

Upward Bound is also home to a stay-away summer camp, where students can get a real feel for the dorm life awaiting them at college, and where they take classes that will help them get ahead in the upcoming school year.

Upward Bound isn’t all about college preparation: the program is also fun! Upward Bound students host fundraisers like dinner and a movie for little kids, or taking students up to UMASS Amherst to watch some of their many productions.

It is also the place where many people make lifelong friends, with an open and inclusive environment where everyone can easily fit in and feel welcome.

Jared LaFountaine, a senior at Upward Bound this year, feels that Upward Bound has changed his life. “Without Upward Bound, I don’t think I’d ever be able to go to college; it’s definitely opened up countless possibilities.”

Upward Bound also has a new advisor this year, Ana Almeida. She acts as a counselor to students, as well as helping them get community service hours and putting together events for Upward Bound.

Ana Almeida, the new adviser for Upward Bound, is an alum of the program herself. When asked how it helped her in high school, she said, “It made me aware of what it takes to get into college long before my peers. I also had an extra counselor, which was nice.”

She says the part she’s most excited about is, “Getting to know all of the new students, helping them succeed, and continuing the legacy of the Upward Bound program.”

In order to apply for Upward Bound, one must go to the UB office (located in the cafeteria) or go see their guidance counselor for an application. It has to be filled out and returned on time, and then the applicant will have to interview with the adviser.

Upward Bound encourages anyone interested in being a part of this wonderful program to apply!