Upward Bound Boasts 100 Percent Pass Rate on Graduation Tests

December 6, 2009

Upward Bound Boasts 100 Percent Pass Rate on Graduation Tests

VALDOSTA -- Seniors in Valdosta State University's Upward Bound program (UB) recently celebrated a 100 percent pass rate for the Georgia High School Graduation Test (GHSGT).

The group of 26 students began the year-round college preparation efforts during the first Upward Bound summer session in 2008. The program, funded by a $1 million TRIO grant from the Department of Education, helps local college-bound students in ninth through 12th grade develop the skills and motivation necessary to succeed beyond high school.

Seniors have dedicated time during the last year and a half to attending afterschool study sessions and Saturday learning sessions with Upward Bound tutors and advisors. Students not only covered themes in math, science and literature, but also focused on preparing for future challenges like the SAT, ACT and GHSGT. Many agree their efforts in building stronger study skills and sharpening their abilities in core academic subjects was well worth the time.

In fact, four have already received college acceptance letters. Samantha Mathis and Ashley Patterson have both been accepted to VSU. Ronald Carter Jr. received his letter from Emmanuel College, a private religious-based college in Franklin Springs, Ga. Fort Valley State University, Savannah State University and Rutgers University have each sent letters of acceptance to Kameron Copeland, who has been dually enrolled at Valdosta High School (VHS) and VSU since summer 2009.

Dondraie Seay, Upward Bound director, said she is thrilled for the future college scholars -- the four already accepted and those still searching for the right fit -- and knows Upward Bound will continue supporting them through their first year of college.

"These students have worked so hard to improve their study skills and raise their GPAs," said Seay, who was hired by VSU's Equal Opportunity Programs in 2007. "I know they will truly be successful during their college careers as well."

Dedrek Bryant has also reaped the rewards from his hard work with Upward Bound. The Valdosta High School junior was recently accepted as a student leader for the People to People Leadership Summit, which will be held July 11-17, 2010 at Harvard University in Boston, Mass. Nominated by VHS English Instructor Donna Alger based on his outstanding scholastic merit, civic involvement and leadership potential, Bryant will attend workshops and presentations and participate in excursions and discussions designed to assist his college admission efforts and guide his educational career goals.

The rigorous academic program will focus on leadership development and global awareness. Coordinated by People to People Ambassador Programs, www.peopletopeople.com/leadership , its mission is to fulfill former President Dwight D. Eisenhower's vision to foster world citizenship.

Student Initiative Program
A team of Upward Bound students recently returned from the ninth annual Student Initiative Weekend, hosted Nov. 20-22 in Peachtree City by the Georgia Association of Special Programs Personnel (GASPP). The event, themed "TAKE FLIGHT: Soar to a Higher Level," featured workshops, presentations and other events designed to improve communication skills and provide attendees with the leadership tools necessary to reach long term goals.

Presenters included NBA Hall-of-Famer Dominique Wilkins, the most celebrated player to wear an Atlanta Hawks basketball uniform, Alisha Thomas Morgan, the first African American to serve for Cobb County in the Georgia House of Representatives, and several others. All challenged students to seize leadership opportunities, set lofty goals, present themselves in the most professional manner possible and always soar above to exceed others expectations.

Students from TRIO programs around the state also competed in academic bowls with categories in math, science, language arts and other core subjects. Although they didn't bring home top awards, the VSU group performed well.

“In competing with TRIO students from around the state, VSU’s Upward Bound students obtained high performance scores throughout the competition,” said Seay. “This event offered the students and opportunity to exercise and expand their leadership skills.”

Last year, Kameron Copeland brought home a $100 prize for placing first in the essay contest and the group scored high in math as well.

What's ahead for Upward Bound
Upward Bound students have faced an accelerated program this year, with four study sessions per week and two Saturday academies each month. Many are also enrolled in honor courses and engaged in the challenging new International Baccalaureate curriculum at Valdosta High.

"The program activities were increased in order to successfully launch the seniors into their chosen college path," said Seay, who manages the program's daily operations. "As a result the students’ skills have increased; the Upward Bound Rising Stars are excelling and will continue to do so upon entering college.”

UB academic advisors work with each junior and senior to create an academic plan to keep them on track toward graduation. Advisors work with school counselors to ensure students are progressing well and taking the best classes to support their long-term goals.

This spring, the group will also tour Georgia colleges, such as Georgia Southern University and Columbus State University, and next summer they plan to travel north for visits to ivy league schools in the Boston, Mass. and New York areas.

Seay said enrollment is open each fall for the program, which manages about 60 students each year. Parents, teachers and other students can refer potential candidates, each of which must submit an application, financial references and an essay about their future goals and life ambitions. After a selective interview process, successful applicants are inducted into the program.

"As a result of the educational and cultural enrichment standards, VSU Upward Bound program has successfully provided beneficial resources to all participants," Seay said. "We challenge the participants to give their all and excel to become a rising star."

Call Seay at (229) 333-5463 or e-mail her at dlseay@valdosta.edu to learn more about VSU’s Upward Bound Program or make a donation to help this program continue leading students toward higher education.

Upward Bound seniors include:
Berrian, Porscha
Beverly, Carlos
Brinson, Ryan
Brown, Doug
Bryant, Christi
Carter, Ron
Christopher, Ashley
Copeland, Kameron
Davis, Gareyl
Durr, Remone
Gipson, Bernotta
Gray, Jonathan
Hamilton, Taquanda
Hargrove, Justin
Jenkins, Tiara
Jones, Latressa
Jones, Marlana
Johnson, Jasmine
Linder, Devione
Mathis, Samantha
Patterson, Ashley
Robinson, Jarvis
Smith, Ranisha
Vinson, Eric
Wilson, Tristan