So let tell you a story about a young man growing up in a predominately Latino area of Anaheim. You know, Anaheim Flats, the opposite of Anaheim Hills. The area home to Little People’s Park, gangs such as Anaheim Vatos Locos, Anaheim PD HQ, and the central public library. Okay it wasn’t that bad, we have Disneyland!
This story begins with me as a sophomore at Anaheim High sitting in an English class. It was the day that Upward Bound walked into my life. Here’s some context for this story. Growing up, I was an academically-focused student who loved school, studying, and getting good grades. Like my family, I didn’t know too much about college. We lived in a community that saw high school as an end point, not a launch pad. Yes, we valued education, but we couldn’t value something we were unaware of… like higher education. My parents didn’t go to college. My mom enrolled in a community college, but then I came along. Growing up, we didn’t know the difference between Fullerton College and Cal State Fullerton, it was all the same. And without Upward Bound, who knows if I would have gone to college.
So I’m in this class, and a person comes in to talk about college and a program called Upward Bound at Cal State Fullerton, the local CSU. The presentation was okay, but many students were disinterested, even I was at first. Then, I heard the magic phrase, “each student in the program gets a TI-83,” and I was sold. I knew I couldn’t afford a $100 calculator and that I would be taking Pre-Calculus, next semester. I signed up, but at that point I didn’t know the life changing experience it would be.
Through the program, I soon realized if I wanted to go to college I need to take control of my learning. Previous to being part of upward bound, I was unaware of my schools “tracking.” I soon discovered that students were grouped into different types of class; “AP track,” “Honors track,” “College Prep track,” and I figured out I was in the “We don’t give a fuck track.” You know the vocational track that includes advanced wood shop, keyboarding, ROP classes, and other courses that would not count or would put me in a disadvantage when applying for college. Upward Bound taught me many things, too many to list today. Overall it gave me confidence and helped me gain advocacy skills, once I learned the A-F requirements, I demanded to be put in college prep/AP courses.
Upward Bound motivated me; it validated my cultural experiences, and empowered me to achieve my dreams. It incorporated my family and we all learned about college. After sophomore year, I got on track to go to college. I wasn’t going to be denied to a UC because I forgot to take the SAT II or a Visual/Performing Arts course, as many of my friends did before. I was educated by Upward Bound and become college ready. So I graduated HS and enrolled to Cal State Fullerton, were I continued to receive support by other TRIO programs like Student Support Services and McNairs Scholars.
I know too many people who had experiences like mine. Many of my colleagues are where they are now because of a TRIO Program. A friend is a doctoral candidate who was catapulted into academia through McNair’s Scholars, my fraternity brother persisted and graduated from college thanks to Student Support Services, and many others in school became college-ready through Talent Search. These programs work. They make a difference. They made a difference in my life and I am forever grateful. Now, it is time to do my part to make sure they exist in the future
And you may ask why I shared this story?
Today, I have seen my friends and colleagues rise for TRIO and other federal programs. A call to action has been sent. To act against the bill, HR 1. If passed, this bill would result in drastic cuts to programs that serve the neediest and most vulnerable members of our society. Specifically, it which would kick 87,000 vulnerable middle and high school students out of TRIO program. Programs that provide intensive academic tutoring, college and career counseling, financial aid advising, and personal mentoring that enables low-income students to achieve their goal of becoming the first in their families to go to college.
For more on what you can do, check out http://www.onemillionvoicesunited.org/ or read this article on it, http://huff.to/e5pVaW. Email or call your house representatives/senators to support President Obama’s 67 Million dollar increase for TRIO programs and to vote against cuts to TRIO in HR 1. Or just share your story in Solidarity, like I did.
My journey through higher education began with Upward Bound. I realized my true potential and gained awareness of the power education has to uplift a community, a nation. It is the reason, why I am in higher education and want to pursue a doctorate. In difficult economic times, we cannot continue to sacrifice education. These cuts will result in lost opportunities and unrealized futures. TRIO programs deals hope, hope for a better future through education.