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High School Upward Bound Program’s New Leadership
September 18, 2007, Volume 54, No. 4


Cruz Heywood

The Division of the Vice Provost for University Life (VPUL) has announced a new executive team for its High School Upward Bound program. Michael Cruz joins as director, and Afi Roberson-Heywood enters as associate director.

Michael Cruz brings more than a dozen years of executive leadership and stewardship of community-based programs throughout the Philadelphia region. A graduate of Penn State University and Eastern University, where he holds a master’s degree in Non-Profit Leadership, Mr. Cruz has proven success in strategic planning, staff development and youth-driven initiatives. 

Mr. Cruz comes to Upward Bound from the School District of Philadelphia, where he served as assistant director/college awareness coordinator. In his term there, he orchestrated the district’s efforts to educate, train, enable testing and facilitate college attendance among city-wide high school populations. Formerly, Mr. Cruz served as executive director of Philadelphia Weed & Seed Project, a federally-funded advocacy and community revitalization program.

“I’m very excited to join a prestigious university like Penn, and to be able to continue to make a difference for our community,” said Mr. Cruz. “Upward Bound provides our kids important information and knowledge—and a chance to succeed in post-secondary education. We’re helping people to better themselves and the community, and I am thrilled at this opportunity.”

The Vice Provost for University Life, Dr. Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum, praised Mr. Cruz as the perfect fit for Penn’s High School Upward Bound program, “Michael is an experienced, thoughtful person and leader. He understands our West Philadelphia community and the needs of its students, especially the low-income and first generation-to-college students our program directly serves. With his talented and energetic staff, I know Michael will continue the tremendous success of our High School Upward Bound program.”

Mr. Cruz will administer the High School Upward Bound program, ensure compliance with federal mandates and manage the staff.

Afi Roberson-Heywood, an 18-year Penn veteran, moves to Upward Bound after a decade of service as a staff assistant at the African-American Resource Center. She will assist Mr. Cruz with program leadership and direct targeted efforts in the seven area middle and high schools served by Upward Bound.

“It’s really a great opportunity for me,” Ms. Roberson-Heywood explained. “As a first-generation college student myself, having a chance to share common experiences and empower youth from lower-income families toward academic success and college feels like fulfilling a life purpose to me.”

“Afi knows our community, and she knows Penn,” Dr. Swain-Cade McCoullum noted. “I know she’ll provide excellent insight and support to Michael and our program.”

The program is designed to motivate and prepare students for the successful pursuit of a four-year college education. The goal is to increase the rate at which low-income, first-generation-to-college students enroll in and graduate from a college or university. Funding is through the U.S. Department of Education. On average, 98%-100% of Penn’s Upward Bound students are accepted at and attend college.

Almanac - September 18, 2007, Volume 54, No. 4