By

Photo of Sierra Jackson

Upward Bound student Sierra Jackson is a senior at Coal Ridge High School. As part of the Upward Bound college-prep program, she attends tutoring sessions in her school library every Wednesday afternoon. She said she likes the camaraderie of studying with other students who also want to go to college. Photo Kate Lapides

Colorado Mountain College reaches out to west Garfield County high school students.

By Carrie Click

“I have friends who have no clue about college,” said Coal Ridge High School senior Sierra Jackson. “They have no idea about what to expect or where to go for information. They don’t know about money for college or scholarships. So they ask me and I tell them.

“‘How do you know this?’ they ask me,” she said. “I know because I have Upward Bound.”

Jackson is one of 20 students from her school – and a total of 60 west Garfield County high school students attending Coal Ridge, Rifle and Grand Valley high schools – who are part of TRIO Upward Bound. It’s a federally funded, college-preparatory program sponsored regionally through Colorado Mountain College. TRIO consists of eight federally funded programs, including those offered through some CMC campuses: Upward Bound Edwards/Leadville and Student Support Service programs for students already in college.

To be eligible for Upward Bound, students must be entering or enrolled in an eligible high school, and come from income-eligible families and/or be first-generation college students (the first in their families to graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree). They need to maintain at least a C average. They also need to agree to participate in Upward Bound activities including monthly academic events, Upward Bound meetings and an intensive six-week summer academic program where they get a taste of college life by living in the residential halls at Colorado Mountain College’s Spring Valley campus near Glenwood Springs.

The payback for participating is substantial, including tutoring and mentoring, career counseling, college exploration, financial aid counseling and more.

Photo of tutor with Upward Bound students

Michael Niederkorn, center, tutors Upward Bound students, from left, Arieli Ramirez and Maria Aguirre Anchondo, during the program’s weekly Wednesday after-school session at the Coal Ridge High School library. Photo Kate Lapides

Trusting the program

Coal Ridge High School Principal Rick Elertson is thrilled to host the program at his school.

“The consistency of the program’s mentors is what I appreciate the most,” he said. “The one-on-one meetings during the day, combined with the weekly after-school tutoring, are making all the difference in students.”

Upward Bound’s west Garfield County staff – director Krisan Crow and coordinator Yesenia Arreola – are constantly on the move, visiting and working with students. Their CMC Upward Bound office is at the college’s Rifle campus, with an additional office at each of the three high schools that they serve.

Crow said all 11 of last year’s senior class of Upward Bound students went on to college, despite overcoming some difficult personal circumstances.

“We’re so proud of our students’ success!” she said. “They have a sincere commitment to go to college. They’re very involved and trust the program.”

To achieve this level of success takes a dedicated team. Upward Bound tutors Alex Jaquez Caro, 19, and Michael Niederkorn, 20, are both Coal Ridge alumni. Upward Bound started at Coal Ridge during Caro’s senior year but he never knew about it, and the program started a year after Niederkorn graduated.

Both say they appreciate helping Upward Bound high school students achieve their college dreams. And they’re good role models. Caro is transferring from CMC’s Rifle campus to its Steamboat Springs campus to take engineering classes, then hopes to attend the University of Colorado at Boulder or Colorado Mesa University. Niederkorn has an associate degree in biology and a nurse aide certificate of proficiency from CMC and is starting nursing school this summer at the University of Colorado at Denver.

“I try to let these Upward Bound students know going to college is not as scary as they think it is,” Niederkorn said. “I was there once and I had to make those decisions myself. It’s comforting for them to hear from someone close to their age.”

Academic support – and more

Coal Ridge senior and Upward Bound student Sierra Jackson appreciates the program’s tutors, mentors and staff, and has her sights set on studying psychology with a minor in business.

“I love being part of Upward Bound,” she said. “I’m a good student and the extra help is nice. Plus I’m surrounded by people working as hard as I am.”

CMC’s Arreola said that being able to support students through Upward Bound is gratifying.

“I’m passionate about working with students preparing for college,” she said. “I didn’t have this opportunity growing up. TRIO programs are much more than academic support.”

April 30 is the priority deadline for students to apply to TRIO Upward Bound for next year. Both Crow and Arreola encourage students and parents to go to www.coloradomtn.edu/academics/college_prep/upward_bound for more information on how to apply and to visit their Facebook page www.facebook.com/CMCTrioUpwardBound. For information about TRIO programs please visit www2.ed.gov/programs/trioupbound.

Please contact the Upward Bound office at the Rifle campus of Colorado Mountain College at (970) 625-6987 if you have any questions or would like a participant application.