Upward Bound, a federal college-preparatory program for disadvantaged high school students, has been funded for the next five years at Buffalo State.
Since 1986, Buffalo State’s Upward Bound program has served 90 ninth- through 12th-graders annually. Primarily they come from Lafayette, McKinley, and East high schools. The program includes tutoring, afterschool programming, and a six-week summer residence where students take core academic subjects from certified Buffalo public school teachers on campus.
One of the first of eight federal TRIO Programs created for low-income, first-generation students, Upward Bound was signed into law in 1964 by President Lyndon Johnson as part of his War on Poverty.
“We know that it works,” said Donald Patterson, director of Buffalo State’s Upward Bound program. An impressive 90 percent of Upward Bound participants enroll in college after high school, including several at Buffalo State.
“What we do is give students who have very little the middle-class experience,” said Patterson, who’s been heading up the Buffalo State program since 2000. “These kids have the same potential as anybody. They just need exposure to college and the level of work that will be expected of them.”
One of those students is Ibrahiim El-Amiin, who started with Upward Bound in 2012 between his freshman and sophomore years at Buffalo’s Math, Science, and Technology Preparatory School. He returned in subsequent summers.
In May, El-Amiin graduated from Morehouse College, an all-male private liberal arts college in Atlanta, Georgia. Beginning next summer, he will participate in the Urban Teachers Program where he will teach mathematics at an urban school in Dallas, Texas, as part of a master’s program at Johns Hopkins University.
“Since I was in middle school, I knew I wanted to go to college. But I don’t know if I could have if not for my participation in Upward Bound,” El-Amiin said. “During those summers, I studied math, English, and physics. It kept me focused on my academics and helped me learn how to use my time wisely to study. It helped me stay on track.”
While the high school students take the academic courses, they live in Perry Hall with Upward Bound staff and Buffalo State students who serve as resident assistants, mentors, and tutors.
Funding for TRIO programs is paramount not only to improving the lives disadvantaged students, but also in helping the country’s economy as a whole, Patterson said.
“Here you have a proven track record of programs that increase the number of students who go onto college and the percentage who are then going into the workplace, making more money and paying more taxes,” Patterson said. “The investment pays off exponentially in the future.”
It also levels the playing field. Patterson pointed out that studies show a high school student with a “C” average who grew up with college-educated parents and financial resources has an 80 percent chance of going to college, while a student with an “A” average who lives in poverty with uneducated parents only has a 20 percent chance of attending college.
“I see year after year how Upward Bound changes lives for the better,” Patterson said.
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