Around Tappan Square
have to want to achieve," Christopher Donaldson '97 says with
parental sternness. The gentle admonishment is part of a speech
he has delivered to hundreds of high school students who are working
to grasp a college education through the 25-year-old Upward Bound
(UB) program at Oberlin.
Funded under Title IV of the Higher Education
Act of 1965, Upward Bound is targeted toward low-income or prospective
first-generation college students. Oberlin's program--one of 722
nationwide--is housed on campus, where Donaldson and his staff of
three professionals and several Oberlin students strive to enhance
the academic lives of 63 students enrolled at four Lorain County
schools. The high school students undergo intensive one-on-one counseling
sessions and after-school tutoring services with Oberlin students.
"The College offers programs like Upward
Bound to increase retention, because we want all of our students
to graduate," says Linda Gates '65, associate dean of Student
Academic Services (SAS), which oversees UB and McNair, a program
that prepares students for doctoral studies. "When I see SAS
students walk across Oberlin's arch and get their degrees, I feel
as if I'm getting a degree, too."
Oberlin UB students particularly enjoy the
six-week Summer Program, a residential session that offers a taste
of college life and structured 15-hour days. Supplemental courses
are offered in languages, math, science, and social studies, for
which students can earn one credit at their home schools--a perk
that is unique to Oberlin's program.
"We are very much involved in these kids'
lives," Donaldson says. "We get a copy of every midterm
report and report card. If a student fails a subject or does poorly
on an assignment, we want to know why so we can intervene. We are
very much like parents; we do everything we can to prepare these
kids for college."
In many public schools, he says, a single guidance
counselor serves 200 to 400 students. Not all will be advised about
a college curriculum. "We get to know our students well and
can determine what techniques and learning environments are most
suitable for each one," Donaldson says. "We also have
to make sure that we are bringing students into this program who
are serious about getting an education."
That's because the U.S. Department of Education requires that 95
percent of UB students graduate from high school. Of them, 85 percent
must gain admittance to an accredited college, and 70 percent must
graduate within six years. It's a lot of pressure for everyone involved,
but the high standard yields success.
February 23rd, also known as National TRIO Day, UB students took
part in anniversary festivities that included a traditional banner
march through campus--a fitting tribute to a program that has helped
many in their journeys toward success.
Keynote speaker and Elyria City Law Director Terry
Robinson '83 is one such success story; as an alumnus of UB and
Oberlin College, he is the only African American male who practices
law in Lorain County. "Many times we judge our success by someone
else's standards. Those are mental barriers," he told the students.
"The worst thing you can do is make the decision to quit."
Jason Williams, a first-year Oberlin College student
from Lorain, still stops by the UB offices every so often for encouragement
and support. Obie Terra Burnette '01, a former Oberlin High School
student, says that UB raised her self esteem. "I felt like
I could accomplish anything." An Oberlin biology major, she
worked in UB's office for three years and, since graduating last
May, plans to attend medical school.
"There was always a helping hand," Donavan
Williams '03 told a room full of high school students, encouraging
them to "work hard to succeed." The third-year Oberlin
student is a Mellon program participant and was recently accepted
into a Princeton research program this summer.
Michael Preacely '00, a Conservatory graduate and opera singer,
was hired as UB's student development specialist last year. "I'm
here because of the students," he says. "I love them."
by Yvonne Gay