School’s in – for summer

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Photo of Upward Bound students

In their TRIO Upward Bound social sciences class, from left, Piper Vasquez from Coal Ridge High School, and April Hurtado from Rifle High School discuss how biased viewpoints can create inaccurate stereotyping. Photo Carrie Click

By Carrie Click

While other teens take a break from the classroom, a motivated group of local high school students is spending part of the summer discovering what college life is all about.

For the month of June, 25 students from Coal Ridge, Rifle and Grand Valley high schools essentially became college students at Colorado Mountain College Spring Valley. At the TRIO Upward Bound Summer Academy, they lived in a college residence hall while taking on-campus classes in journalism, American Sign Language, social science and statistics.

On breaks from the academics they spent time outside reveling in the Mount Sopris view, or receiving instruction on personal finance and cooking. They took field trips to climb and try out a zip line, and they traveled to the state capitol to learn how legislation works.

Jasmine Sandoval attends Rifle High School and recently participated in the Miss Strawberry Days contest in Glenwood Springs. She hopes to be an orthodontist and knows she needs to do well in physics and chemistry in college to reach her career goals. She said attending the Upward Bound Summer Academy helped her to envision being away at college.

“It definitely helps to see what it’s like,” she said. “I’ve made many friends here.”

Heading to college with Upward Bound

Upward Bound is part of TRIO, a national program that began in 1964 to provide support and motivation to students who may not otherwise pursue a college degree. The program serves high school students from income-eligible families and from families in which neither parent/guardian holds a bachelor’s degree.

Yesenia Arreola, the director of TRIO Upward Bound at Colorado Mountain College Rifle, was just such a student, as was coordinator Melessa Starbuck. Both women grew up in the valley and were the first in their families to graduate from college. Arreola said that no one around her had experience going to college, and so didn’t fully see the value of a college education. At that time, she did not have access to a program such as Upward Bound.

“This is an opportunity I did not have growing up,” Arreola said, “and providing this to these students is a true honor.”

Arreola knew she wanted to attend Colorado Mountain College, which she did, graduating with an associate degree. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Regis University and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Denver. Now, she focuses on helping students pursue higher education.

“Our staff is extremely passionate about providing the best college-preparatory experience for these students,” she said.

Summer – and year-round – support

Upward Bound’s summer academy is six weeks in length. The first week is a day camp held at CMC Rifle, followed by four weeks of the residential camp at CMC Spring Valley.

Though the main Upward Bound office is at CMC Rifle, staff spend most of their time at Coal Ridge, Rifle and Grand Valley high schools – the three schools the program serves in west Garfield County. More than 120 students are enrolled in TRIO Upward Bound through CMC, either through the Rifle or Vail Valley at Edwards campuses. The program is free to participants and funded through grants from the U.S. Department of Education and support from Colorado Mountain College.

Upward Bound is a popular program, but now that a number of students from Coal Ridge, Rifle and Grand Valley high schools graduated this past spring, local director Yesenia Arreola is looking for new students to take their places.

In west Garfield County, Upward Bound has a maximum enrollment of 60 students. Right now, there are approximately 20 open slots. Students in all high school grades can apply, but the program highly encourages students entering 9th grade to apply and be part of the program through high school. To qualify, students must meet certain eligibility requirements including, but not limited to:

  • Meet income eligibility requirements, and/or
  • Be a first-generation college student (neither parent/guardian has earned a four-year college degree).

For more information or to apply, visit coloradomtn.edu/upward bound or contact the Upward Bound office at 970-625-6987 or upwardbound@coloradomtn.edu.