ABERDEEN, S.D. – Kelsey Long doesn’t hesitate when she tells you the difference Upward Bound has made in her life.
“Everything,” she said. “If I wasn’t in the program, I don’t know if I would’ve gone to college.”
Long, a Langford native, said Upward Bound gave her confidence “to be myself and know I can achieve a lot if I put my mind to it.” This May, she graduated from Northern State University with a degree in business management. She is continuing her graduate studies at Northern.
She’s also continuing her involvement in NSU Upward Bound as a counselor for its summer program. Upward Bound helps first-generation and low-income high school students prepare for, enroll in and graduate from college.
About 50 high school students in grades 9-12 will be on campus June 1-July 10, taking classes and staying in residence halls as part of the annual summer program.
Long spent four years in Upward Bound as a high school student and is now starting her fifth year as a counselor. She isn’t the only student who became a counselor – two others are also former students who are now counselors.
“I feel the biggest impact that Upward Bound has on students is they come away from the program with more confidence in themselves. Many of them are very capable of doing well in school, they just need someone to believe in them,” said Rocky Burkett, Upward Bound director. “I think that is why we have students come back as counselors. They want to give back to students and help them gain the belief in themselves and to help them develop the type of drive they will need to pursue a college education.”
Chelsea Holmes became a counselor because she wanted to continue her involvement with the summer program. Holmes, an Aberdeen native attending the University of Minnesota, was in Upward Bound five years as a student and is in her second year as a counselor.
NSU student Chasity Janisch, too, spent five years in the Upward Bound program and is now in her first year as a counselor. She said she wanted to come back and see the other side of it.
“I really missed it,” said Janisch, a native of Eden.
Janisch, a general studies major in her third year at Northern, said the Upward Bound program helped her determine her next step after high school.
“It made me actually go to college,” she said.
Holmes, a junior nursing student at the U of M, said Upward Bound made a big difference for her. It provided the opportunity to learn what college would be like. But through Upward Bound, Holmes also learned about the Gates Millennium Scholarship program and was encouraged to apply. In 2011, she was one of 1,000 students nationwide to receive this prestigious scholarship, which covers all college costs not met by financial aid.
The resources she’s learned of through Upward Bound, along with now getting the opportunity to mentor kids, have been the best parts of the program for Holmes.
Northern’s Upward Bound program serves 68 students from the following northeast South Dakota high schools: Aberdeen Central, Britton-Hecla, Doland, Frederick, Langford, Waubay, Webster, Wilmot and Sisseton. During the school year, Upward Bound representatives travel to these schools to offer academic advising services to the students.
Through the Upward Bound Summer Program, students get a six-week college experience at NSU. They take high school courses in science, math, reading, writing and Spanish. They also visit various other colleges and universities; travel to cultural locations such as museums; and perform community service projects. This year’s itinerary includes visiting Kansas City, stopping on the way to tour Creighton University.
This year, Northern is hosting the annual Upward Bound Olympics June 27-29. About 150 Upward Bound students will come to campus from the University of South Dakota, University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University to participate in academic and athletic events.
Holmes said she would definitely encourage students wanting to learn more about the program and about the college experience to try Upward Bound.
“You never know where it’ll take you,” Janisch said.
For more information on NSU’s Upward Bound program, call 605-626-3299 or visit Upward Bound