Students bound for success

Published 4:29 pm Monday, June 29, 2009

Fingertips click against keyboards in the computer lab of Comer Hall at the University of Montevallo.

Devarus James sits in the third row typing out yet another paper for his English 101 course.

Not attending college was never an option for James, yet getting there felt like taking a road trip without a map. James recently became the first in his family to attend a four-year university through UM’s Upward Bound program.

“Being the first one in my family to go [to college] was scary because I had no one to tell me how it all worked,” James said. “Upward Bound basically gives us a college experience.”

The Upward Bound program began at UM in 1986.

The U.S. Department of Education provides the program two grants worth $600,683 each year. Director Sharon Gilbert said the money supports 120 students from Bibb, Chilton and Shelby counties.

“This program offers a jumpstart on their college careers,” Gilbert said. “They have so much potential, and I don’t think some of our students realize that.”

She said the program builds their confidence through individualized attention.

Students enter the program as early as ninth-grade and can participate for up to four years. During that time they prepare for the ACT and graduation exams, receive career mentoring, academic support, counseling and tutorial services, and contribute to community service projects.

“We’re trying to help them be a well-rounded student,” Gilbert said. “Our students attend plays and participate in community service activities.”

James said he learned how to use a syllabus to guide him through courses. He also learned to manage his time. James played baseball at Bibb County High School, while juggling schoolwork and his participation in UB.

The heart of the program, Gilbert said, exists in the six-week summer component called BRIDGE. BRIDGE brings students to live and take classes on campus before they officially begin college.

Megan Traweek, a Thompson High School graduate, took advantage of the opportunity. She completed the program in 2007 and now studies math at UM.

“It helped me see all the aspects of college life that I wasn’t prepared for,” Traweek said. “When you see other people in your classes struggling to balance their time, you realize how much the program helped you.”

Students accepted to the

program receive all the services, including transportation to UM, free of charge. Many also often receive scholarships to the university, Gilbert said.

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