2019 Upward Bound students take home awards, knowledge

It’s not every day students at OCCC are honored for showing positivity or being engaged in classes. But, some did last month as the college’s TRiO Upward Bound mini-college program celebrated its end-of-the summer event. 

 Teachers showed their students appreciation as the students showcased their artistry, singing, science knowledge, critical thinking and civil rights skills June 28 in College Union Rooms 1 and 2. 

Upward Bound is a U.S. Department of Education funded student assistance program. Its focus is giving students the skills to succeed in high school and in college. 

To be a part of the program, students must be in grades 9-12 and must attend U.S. Grant High School, Capitol Hill High School, Southeast High School, Pathways Middle College, Moore High School, Southmoore high School, Santa Fe South High School or Westmoore High School.

The summer program lasted four weeks, and students were paid stipends for taking eight different subjects taught by veteran high school teachers and business leaders. 

Instructors included high school teachers, college  and university professors and industry leaders, including Upward Bound veteran teachers Bill Smiley, whose students sang a medley of songs and a duet at the event and Jon Corea, whose students presented mixed media artistry. 

Smiley and Corea have almost 40 years experience teaching in high schools and for Upward Bound.

OCCC Adjunct English Professor Jennifer Fillmore, who taught English 3 and poetry, said the students who took her 8 a.m. English class impressed her.

“We read the Great Gatsby in eight class periods. I’m really proud of everybody for making it through that book.”

One student Fillmore recognized is Daniel Lopez, who won an award for most engaged. 

Lopez, a high school junior, took eight classes this summer. He said his sister and brother attended the summer program years ago, and his participation has continued the family tradition. 

Lopez said his mind was opened about society through his Critical Thinking course.

“I learned that a lot of big companies make you do things without being logical, “ he said. “They just try and scare you into it, or they use guilt to make you buy things. “

Not only did veteran teachers try and shape minds, but so did new teacher  Kelli Ude who taught Civil Rights and Criminal Procedures.

Ude, executive director for Oklahoma Halfway House, taught civil rights in her classroom. She joked that the students at one point were so well studied that they found a way to vote her out of the classroom. 

“Luckily they reinstated me,” she said. 

Ude said two of the most important topics she taught were protecting freedom of speech and starting a civil rights movement. 

“The students were tasked with coming up with a civil rights movement of their own. I gotta say, this was the most impressed I was all summer,” she said.  

“They had to come up with protest signs for a cause they believed a lot in. They were very creative, and it showed just how mature they were and how much potential each one of them had.”

Ude said one of the most inspirational protests her students completed focused on the right of a person to his or her own reputation. 

She said the student who made the presentation focused not protecting only on the reputation of a victim but also on the reputation of the accused.  

“It was a very impressive moment in the classroom,” she said. 

Ude  honored many students with awards, including Edwin Medina. “He was a philosopher. He was not afraid to speak his mind and draw upon all the educational achievements this summer, “ she said. 

Ximena Cuellar, a second year student from Classen SAS High School,  also won many awards for her participation including the Friendly Neighbor Award.

She said the program’s focus on enjoyable hands-on learning made the summer fun. “It makes me want to come to school,” Cuellar said. “Every teacher had their own thing, and it was really fun.  

Dr. James Welch, professor at University of Sciences and Arts of Oklahoma, said he also had fun while teaching a podcasting course to eight students. This was the first time he had taught for Upward Bound, he said. 

“As a professor, it was a wonderful chance for me to introduce these kids to learning environment that challenged and engaged them. I tried to use active learning techniques to help them generate their own ideas, and create projects that were meaningful to their lives.”

Welch, who has taught the same podcasting class at USAO, said teaching students in a compressed format was a challenge.

“We had a month to bring an audio project from idea to completion. A trio of students completed a full episode of a podcast based on their cultural experiences as Vietnamese Americans in Oklahoma City. They developed a wonderful chemistry and worked together to complete all the technical aspects of the project.”

Welch said he worked one-on-one with the students, which made them successful.  He said a female student, in particular, is memorable in her success.  “By helping her work through and refine her ideas, she produced the beginnings of a podcast documenting the experiences of undocumented workers in our community.”

For more information about enrolling a student in Upward Bound, call (405) 682-7865 or visit the office in Main Building 1T7 and 1V7.

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