The U.S. Department of Education has announced that Trinity University will receive a federal Upward Bound grant of $2.189 million to help potential first-generation and underrepresented students succeed in their precollege coursework in high school and ultimately in their higher education pursuits. The University has hosted this program for 35 years, and the recent grant allows it to continue for the next five years.
“Faculty, staff, and alumni of Trinity, as well as alumni and former faculty and staff of Upward Bound are committed to the next five years of Upward Bound as we continue to learn to innovate and improve,” says Angela Breidenstein, chair of Trinity’s education department and a co-author of the Upward Bound grant. Upward Bound is one of the education department’s programs and an important collaboration with the San Antonio educational community.
“By listening to students, families, partners, and colleagues in TRIO programs in San Antonio and across the US, as well as collaborating locally and nationally, we seek to continue our learning and leadership," Breidenstein says. "As a first-generation student myself, I know the difference we are making for each and every student in our program and their families.”
In 1964, the Economic Opportunity Act established Upward Bound as a pilot program in response to the War on Poverty. Upward Bound, the first of seven federal TRIO programs to later be authorized by the Higher Education Act, helps college students succeed in higher education. It recognizes that students whose parents do not have a college degree have more difficulties navigating the complexity of decisions that college requires for success.
The program bolsters these students from low-income communities who have not had the academic opportunities that their college peers have had and helps remove obstacles that prevent them from thriving academically. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 86% of national Upward Bound students enroll in postsecondary institutions immediately following high school graduation.
Trinity’s Upward Bound program serves four target schools, two from Edgewood Independent School District and two from Harlandale Independent School District: Kennedy and Memorial High School, and Harlandale and McCollum High School, respectively. This target community falls in the 87th percentile nationally of economically distressed communities, meaning that it confronts higher economic and social distress levels than 87% of American communities. Trinity Upward Bound graduates are 10 times more likely to have a bachelor's degree than adults over the age of 25 living within their community.
During the academic year, Trinity Upward Bound students attend parent and student orientations, Saturday academic sessions held on the Trinity campus, cultural field trips, and weekly advising sessions held at the target high schools. The program provides intensive mentoring and support for students as they prepare for college entrance exams and tackle admission applications, financial aid, and scholarship forms.
“Upward Bound provided me with great mentors,” said Maria Olalde, a past Upward Bound student in a previous Trinity story. She emphasized how she “was always in awe of how intelligent, compassionate, and confident my tutors had been.” Olalde later returned to the Upward Bound program to serve as a tutor herself. “Self-advocacy is the greatest lesson I learned from the program,” Olalde said. “I pride myself in being someone who is actively seeking new opportunities for myself and community.”
Upward Bound students are also given career and financial literacy advice. Several high school juniors and seniors are placed in career internships, matched with college and community professionals in their career interests. These internships even include placements at Trinity departments such as engineering science, physics and astronomy, psychology, Information Technology Services, and Trinity's radio station, KRTU. After students graduate, advisers keep in contact with their students, monitoring their transition progress and providing guidance on how to overcome any barriers to their success in higher education either socially or academically.
“Upward Bound was more than an academic and college preparatory program,” Olalde said. “It is a program that helps you grow as a student, as a professional, and as a person.”
Trinity’s summer Upward Bound program allows students to improve academically while also experiencing all the benefits of a college environment. Upward Bound students are given a Trinity student ID, allowing them to attend Trinity events such as lectures and performances throughout the year and granting them access to university classrooms and meeting spaces across campus, including science laboratories, computer labs, the MakerSpace, auditoriums, library, dining halls, residence hall spaces, and recreational venues.
During the summer program, students participate in a series of academic courses on the University’s campus, including creative writing, literature, mathematics, foreign language, physics, biology, and chemistry.
Leeann Gonzalez, the parent of Sophia, a student in the summer 2022 program at Trinity, shared the impact of the Upward Bound program on her daughter's first week of high school the following academic year: “Sophia had the best day in math, and she said ‘it was all thanks to Mr. [Jeff] Martinez and Upward Bound,’ that ‘he prepped her so well she went in there and finished the paper before the teacher could finish giving the lesson.’ She said ‘she's ready for math this year; she knows she's going to do awesome.’ I can't thank [Upward Bound] and Mr. Martinez for helping her get here. She always dreaded going to math, and now she's eager and ready and super confident, all thanks to you all and this program.”
Jeff Martinez himself was a student in Trinity’s Upward Bound program during his high school years. After receiving his teaching certificate from Our Lady of the Lake University, he now serves as a middle school counselor at Harlandale Middle School and is back in the Upward Bound program serving as an instructor.
During both the academic year and summer, Trinity’s Upward Bound program facilitates field trips for university visits, service projects, symphonies, theaters, and museums. This summer, 20 Trinity Upward Bound students traveled to Seattle, Washington for college visits to the University of Washington and Seattle University. Upward Bound participants were given a tour by their TRIO SSS adviser, who spoke about his own experience as a first-generation student attending university. These visits allowed Upward Bound students to see the contrast between a large public university and a small private university, both located in the middle of the city.
In addition to visiting these college campuses, the students were able to experience some of the city’s unique locations: The Museum of Pop Culture, Space Needle, Chihuly Garden, and Glass, Pike Place Market, Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle Aquarium, and The Museum of Flight. For many of these students, it was their first time leaving the city or the state and flying on an airplane.
“Upward Bound is serving our community and connecting with families, students, Trinity faculty and staff, high school counselors and teachers, and community partners,” says Alejandra De Hoyos, director of Trinity's Upward Bound program. “It is instilling a sense of confidence among the students we serve that ‘College Completion is Possible,’ and watching parents send their child, the first in their family, to college with pride in their eyes. For us, it is knowing that the future generations in those families' lives have been changed because the path has become a bit easier. As a team, we have seen it happen and are proud of the commitment and work we do to serve Trinity University, Harlandale ISD, and Edgewood ISD.”
The first picture was taken at an Upward Bound community service event with The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) in 2022. Explore more about Upward Bound’s impact from previous participants Rosario Moreno, Jennifer Adame, and Linda Ramirez.