Thanks to two renewed federal grants, for the next five years Colorado Mountain College can continue to administer Upward Bound, the federally funded program that helps high school students from low-income families succeed in high school and prepare for college.

Upward Bound high school kids at the airport.

Recently, after a few days of learning and networking at an economic seminar put together by the Foundation for Economic Education at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo., Upward Bound high school students from west Garfield County headed home. Upward Bound is a federally funded TRIO program, administered locally by Colorado Mountain College.

Locally two different grants support programs that work with a total of 123 students to “instill enough grit and motivation” to complete high school and be ready to attend college or technical school right after graduation, said Yesenia Arreola, director of Upward Bound for Garfield County.

The combined total of $2.6 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Education will fund CMC’s Upward Bound program at seven high schools in three counties, from fall 2017 through summer 2022. They are renewals of previous five-year grants awarded to the college in 2012.

Upward Bound serves 60 students at Grand Valley, Rifle and Coal Ridge high schools in Garfield County, and another 63 students at Lake County High School and at Eagle Valley, Battle Mountain and Red Canyon high schools in Eagle County.

“For Colorado Mountain College, it’s about serving our community,” said Arreola. “These students need the access to education through a college-prep program. The purpose is not just to get them to college, but through college.”

Many of these students will be the first in their family to attend college, said Heather O’Malley, director of Upward Bound for Eagle and Lake counties. “Family support is an important part of the program,” she said.

The Upward Bound team uses a three-part program during the school year and over the summer, O’Malley said, working with high school students for four years as they move from being freshmen to seniors.

Group of high school students on a college visit.

Eagle Valley  and Battle Mountain high school students in Upward Bound take part in a college visit at the Uinversity of New Mexico. From left, Kevin Azcona, Jade Gallegos, Maria Marin, Martin Cano, Abraham Garcia and Brian Garcia  at the legendary Frontier Restaurant in Albuquerque, N. Mex.,

During the school year, they meet at least once a week with academic tutors, and with the Upward Bound staff to learn about family finance, career options and college requirements, and to fill out financial aid applications.


Students attend a monthly Saturday academy for a full day of career workshops, honing social skills, visiting a college campus or volunteering for a community service project.

During the summer break, Upward Bound students build their skills through a six-week summer academy. It starts with one week of service projects and outdoor leadership activities. Students then live on a CMC campus for four weeks to attend college-style academic classes. The sixth week is a road trip to visit other college and university campuses.

“We focus on helping students choose a college and a career in order to thrive and succeed,” Arreola said. “Upward Bound helps them begin to walk that path early on.”