The Upward Bound program at Missouri Southern State University, which prepares high school students for postsecondary education, has been approved for a five-year grant by the U.S. Department of Education.

The grant will provide $289,195 per year, beginning Sept. 1, to help fund the program, which serves 70 students from the Joplin, Carl Junction, Carthage, Webb City and East Newton school districts. Students who participate in Upward Bound are primarily first-generation college students or come from low-income families.

“We have to show the need in the area to be approved for the grant,” said Robin Hicklin, director of Upward Bound at Missouri Southern. “They look at poverty rates, test scores, the number of students graduating and attending college, and our past performance to see that we’re meeting our goals."

Participating students begin in Upward Bound as freshmen and continue throughout high school. Through the program, they have access to tutoring, ACT prep and workshops that focus on study and skills assessments. Visits to local colleges and universities also are part of the curriculum.

"In the summer, we have a simulated college experience where the students live on campus for five weeks and take high school classes in a college setting, which gives them a jump-start for that class in the fall," Hicklin said.

Students who qualify can participate in a cultural trip. This year, a group of students will visit Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Upward Bound has been offered at Missouri Southern since 1999. Its most recent annual report, for the 2015-16 year, shows that 100 percent of participating seniors that year graduated from high school, with 80 percent continuing on to college.

The success of the program also has been proved elsewhere. James Walkingstick, an Afton High School student who participated in the Upward Bound program offered through Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College in Miami, recently announced that he had been accepted to Harvard University this fall. He will be the first in his family to attend college.

Other costs

Thanks to the U.S. Department of Education grant, the cost of participating in Upward Bound for local students is free. The program also pays for college admission fees and ACT registration fees for its students.

Emily Younker is the assistant metro editor at the Joplin Globe. Contact: eyounker AT joplinglobe DOT com.

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