Academic Support Services: Upward Bound and Veterans Upward Bound

Dear Colleagues,

Two federal-government programs designed to open college doors to nontraditional students are based at Penn, sheltered under the umbrella of Academic Support Services. A special few of our own undergraduates have come to us through these programs. Understanding the backgrounds and preparations of those who enter our classes through either version of Upward Bound may make us more aware of the diversity of those we teach.

Both Upward Bound and Veterans Upward Bound are aimed at potential college students from low-income families in which neither parent has completed a college education. Penn's High School Upward Bound Program draws its students from nine Philadelphia-area high schools, accepting 80 students evenly spread out across the four years of high school. Students from the college track in these schools are recommended by their counselors because of their academic performance, maturity, family support (for parents are required to be involved), and requisite income and family education levels. The 20 first-year students selected from this pool are chosen through a process that resembles the college selection processapplication essays, teacher recommendations, financial statements, proof of community involvement, interviews (with the family as well as the student)all are required. Those selected spend every Saturday from October through May in classes and tutoring sessions that focus on English, Math, Laboratory Science, Computer Literacy, Foreign Language Study, and Public Speaking, accompanied by workshops and special cultural and social events. Parents must come to a two-hour meeting once a month to stay involved with their children's progress. In the summers, students who have maintained their academic progress in school enroll in a six-week program, three to four of the weeks of which take place in residence at Penn. Here they continue their academic work, with the addition of SAT preparation classes, attend study halls, become involved in a sports program, and attend special events, including a one -week college tour by bus to expand their awareness of future possibilities. One hundred percent of those who complete the program go on to college, and Penn currently has approximately ten Upward Bound graduates attending our undergraduate schools.

Veterans Upward Bound seeks out veterans from the five-county area, recruiting its members though public service announcements, posters placed in likely spots, and contact with various veterans' services in the area. Current enrollees are also asked to seek out likely veterans to fill their places as they graduate. Both men and women, from various cultural backgrounds and who range in age from 21 to 62 years old, have been enrolled in the program. They may come from jobs or even from prison or the "streets," most arriving with their high school diplomas but some needing to earn a GED before going on. All are admitted through an application process that includes proof of at least 180 days of active service in the military, appropriate income and educational backgrounds, an interview, and a three-hour academic assessment. Those who are not ready to enter the program may get special tutoring to help them prepare for a reapplication. Through intensive counseling, peer support, tutoring, classwork (in the same general areas addressed in Upward Bound), and life-skills classes, these men and women cycle through 16-week programs, divided into two levels, until they are ready to go on to college. These cycles include classes from 5:30 p.m. until 9:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday, optional computer literacy classes on Friday night, and optional Saturday tutoring. Most begin their college careers at Philadelphia Community College, Peirce Junior College, or Temple; some go out of state; and a small number are ready for Penn when they complete the program. Veterans Upward Bound prides itself on providing its members with a homey atmosphere, special understanding of the needs of this special population, and its history of dramatic successes.

The staff of both the Upward Bound programs is made up of dedicated teachers, most from local high schools and technical schools, who have been with the program for years and routinely enjoy the active involvement of Penn's faculty and staff.

Those interested in learning more about either program may call Fred Whiten at 898-3185 or 898-6892.


Alice Kelley, Faculty Liaison to Student Services


Volume 42 Number 34
June 18, 1996

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