Upward Bound Math Science makes a difference at WSU
Wichita State University is host to one of the region’s premier college access and support programs, TRIO Upward Bound Math Science (UBMS), which prepares low-income and first generation high school students for degrees and careers in math and science.
One of nine federally funded TRIO programs at Wichita State, UBMS works with students in the eighth grade all the way through college.
According to education experts, including UBMS Director Kaye Monk-Morgan, eighth grade is a critical point for students in the college and career planning process. If students are not on target for college and career readiness by the time they reach this point, the effect is close to irreversible.
UBMS has a summer component as well as activities during the academic year, giving high school students a taste of college. For six weeks in the summer, students take fast-paced courses that prepare them to excel in school.
Monk-Morgan explained that school districts are increasingly allowing students to choose educational tracks that prepare them for vocation/trade school, career or college, and students who start on a college track late, for example, often fall behind, especially in math and science.
“Students in the eighth grade have to select the right track,” said Monk-Morgan. “If they don’t, it is hard to get on the college track. It is key that students determine a vision for their future early. Eighth grade isn’t the beginning of the process. It really is the end of the decision phase and the beginning of the destiny-making phase.”
That’s one reason the UBMS program is hard at work in the community identifying young students with the potential to be successful in college, particularly those who are least likely go.
'What UBMS does best'
Wichita State seniors Clinton Liddell and Cree Enna are two Upward Bound students who Monk-Morgan called “fine examples of what UBMS does best.”
Liddell’s exposure to Wichita State’s UBMS in his hometown of Kansas City, Kan., led him to attend WSU. Neither of his parents went to college, and without the program, Liddell admits, he probably would not be the successful student he is today.
“Upward Bound has made a tremendous difference,” he said, “partly because it gave me experience with a college atmosphere. It has taken something that was a dream and laid out the steps; made it attainable.”
Liddell is an accounting major and president of the Black Student Union, an ambassador for Multicultural Affairs and a member of the National Society of Black Engineers.
Liddell has relied on UBMS throughout his college career, receiving help with financial aid and much more.
“It taught me how to get things done efficiently and how to work with other people,” he said. “It helped me find out who I am, helped me find my voice and helped me challenge myself to do things that are still uncomfortable but are good for me.”
Enna, a Kansas City, Mo., native, has switched from studying aerospace engineering to sociology and communication. She’s a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and president of the Multicultural Greek Council, and for Enna, UBMS changed her life.
The training Upward Bound students get before college is impressive, she said, especially during the summer program.
“Upward Bound gave me a challenge,” Enna said. “You can be naturally smart, have a super-high ACT, do really good in high school, but when you get to college it’s completely different. If you only do the homework, you’re not going to get it. Upward Bound taught me the serious study skills that I needed.”
Enna’s involvement included exposure to a variety of subjects starting early in the morning and throughout the day, including instruction in public speaking, calculus, trigonometry, ethnic studies, writing and Chinese language. The climax of the summer program includes a competitive cooperative research project. Enna says that in addition to learning about math and science, they were given workout classes, a nutrition plan and a stipend to budget.
Everyday life skills are incorporated into schoolwork during the summer residential program. Along with visits to colleges and museums, guest professionals are brought in to mentor and talk about careers related to UBMS students’ interests. In Enna’s case that was engineering, but before her UBMS experience, Enna thought an engineer was someone who drove a train.
Enna says that her problem in high school was that it wasn’t challenging enough. She became interested in engineering because of contact with an aerospace engineer in the UBMS summer program who provided her with experiences that were direct applications of the things she learned through study.
Enna looked at a number of universities with strong engineering programs before deciding on WSU. She didn’t want to be too far away from her hometown, but she didn’t want to be too close either.
“I chose Wichita State because of its location and value,” she said, “but also because I felt like I already had a support system here.”
More than helping her find a path to higher education, UBMS provided something early on that Enna’s life was lacking, something that still makes her emotional to talk about.
“I was having a tough time back then with home struggles,” she said. “Upward Bound gave me another family during the summer, away from home. Just 50 kids who do everything together. That kept me coming back.”
The focus and training Enna received from UBMS have had a profound impact on her life. Even though Enna may not have had the opportunity to drive a train, she did get to fly an airplane.
“That’s even better,” she said, still smiling at the memory.
To learn more about UBMS, visit the website 316-978-3316.