“It was totally worth it. All that hard work paid off,” student Selena Luna said about a recent trip to Tennessee taken by 20 Upward Bound students as a reward for excellence in the program.
TRiO Programs Director Karolyn Chowning said the trip was part of a six-week summer academy held every summer.
‘It’s one of the biggest parts of the Upward Bound program,” Chowning said. “Students receive 20 hours a week of academic instruction. It really simulates a college experience. The courses aren’t for credit in high school or college, so it’s pure enrichment.”
She said the trip was part of the program’s offering of college visits.
“In the year-’round program, we go on lots of college visits, especially when universities host campus preview days. We go to pretty much all of the campus preview days in the state of Oklahoma.”
She said the summer program offers the opportunity for students to see campuses outside Oklahoma.
“This year we took the whole group, everyone in the summer program, and went to Dallas and visited Southern Methodist University.”
Chowning said this trip was limited to the top-20 students in the program with the highest number of merits, and the lowest number of demerits, good behavior, good attendance, and the highest grades she said.
“And they went to the Great Smoky Mountains in Gatlinburg, Tenn. They visited the University of Central Arkansas on the way there, and visited the University of Tennessee on the way back.” she said.
Luna said while she enjoyed everything about the trip, she especially liked the chance to get closer to her peers.
“I like how we all get together and we bond because I got more comfortable with everyone there,” she said. “You’re just having a lot of fun and then you share things that you never expected to share with anyone.
“We shared embarrassing moments. Of course, not everyone wanted to share everything, but we did and it was really fun.”
Johana Rodriguez, a student in the program, said she enjoyed discovering all the things that are different from Oklahoma.
“There’s a lot of things that aren’t in Oklahoma,” Rodriguez said. “They had gift shops everywhere, and anything to do. There was skydiving inside, arcades, upside-down buildings, dinner shows. You wouldn’t get bored there, that’s for sure.”
Upward Bound student Max Nguyen said he enjoyed the experience of being away from home.
“For most people, like me, it’s the furthest away from home that we’ve been. Having a different environment and different region, experiencing contact with different social groups, really helps our communication skills.
“It helps us see more options for college, instead of just seeing The University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University,” he said.
Luna said she’d like to see more students in the Upward Bound program, adding that students who do join should get more involved in the program.
“I wish students wouldn’t think of it as boring, which is what a lot of students assume when they look at it. You have to be involved more to have fun,” she said.
Nguyen agreed, saying the program is all about its students.
“It’s a student benefit program, all on you. You get out what you put in,” he said. “The thing about Upward Bound is that it doesn’t just test your academics, it tests your [ability to] respect, and the traits of a leader. It’s different from [high] school, where they look mostly at the grade.”
Rodriguez said she feels the program has given her a head start.
“It’s very much a learning experience,” she said. “You learn all this stuff before you go into your current grade in high school, and then you already know it. So I’ll be prepared.”
Nguyen said he also recommends the program for the expanded view of the world it offers.
“You just get so secluded in your region. If you’re from Moore, you might only know people from Moore. But once you get into the program you know people from all over,” he said.
Rodriguez agreed and said she’s made a lot of new friends.
“And they might even be your friends for a lifetime, instead of just friends for high school.”
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