It happens every summer – necessity pushes me forward to seek out employment over the summer and catch up on the year’s expenses and then that experience becomes so rewarding, it sticks. Necessity certainly fueled my need to “catch up” the first summer of a major move from Mexico to the United States, and I stumbled luckily, thanks to some influential and experienced friends, into Upward Bound.
I mainly had always been familiar with Upward Bound and Talent Search from a teacher-inside the-school position, starting when I was an English educator in Seaford, DE. Beyond the occasional pull outs and weekly appointments, I literally realized I knew very little about the program.
What I DID begin to realize is this is a program that infuses the expectations of success on students from the very beginning, from balancing knowledge about maintaining a personal checking/savings account, to managing the options for financial security when thinking about education beyond high school, understanding the role and importance of being an involved member of society when it comes to non-profit organizations, discovering the strength of an environmentally strong community, connecting with individuals that have strong ties to inner city and rural programs, developing paths where science, math, technology, engineering, art, communication, and expression all meet and can benefit the community, these are only SOME of the aspects that enable students to strive for success in their lives.
Building in a system that congratulates students on their attendance, grade point average, as well as acquiring new information and applying it to the world around them, Upward Bound certainly does provide a path for students to aim up, but also out, exposing students to REAL community aspects and not just experiencing these in a textbook, but interacting with these elements on a daily basis. This daily intervention of education that involves the community on such a rapid schedule, is the real deal, the realty of why being educated today can go hand in hand with the world as it operates today.
I realized on a trip with students to Shriner’s Hospital and Mutter Museum, there is still so much more I do not know and am familiar with, and being able to learn alongside students was the best way to soak in information and figure out together, students alongside students, how to apply these new paths of info to have it last longer than the visit itself.
Add to the the amazing ceremonies of math and Science and Classic Upward Bound students (two totally different programs) – and you see the pride, determination, challenges and motivation that many of the students might not be receiving in areas outside of this program. I realized this program has allowed alumni of Upward Bound, as well as future scientists biologists, engineers, and countless other professions to actually be a part of a profession those students take to heart, care about, and with this program HAVE the chance to grab the opportunity to move into what they have dreamed about.
Yes, it is summer, yes most individuals are vacationing and NOT working, and yet, that was the beauty in seeing students attending and sacrificing those opportunities for the opportunities that will ultimately decide a better future. That speaks volumes and I would have to say I am not sure I would see that motivation in the regular school day without Upward Bound opening the window, so that can see what lies more than one day out for each of them.
As instructors, despite being the summer, there were some concrete ways to show how you take extensions of the past years and apply them to the world around us. Math, Science, English teachers combined to create a murder mystery scenario, using actual DNA samples and fingerprinting to show how the forensics path involved STEAM and STEM objectives, while taking the aspects students learn in high school and explaining how these areas impact a future career – vaidating the why and how using hands-on projects every day.
Being able to tap into students I knew from Mexico, to not only help judge and comment on a career photography competition from within Upward Bound, but showing that our past should be connected to what we are doing in the present, is a powerful tool. Every step of the way, it was exciting to see how relationships formed from education contributed to PBL projects of the present. Mohamed Zaki (Tony) – who visited American School Foundation in Mexico City Google live on Air’ed with us to discuss the idea of realities in another country such as Egypt, (as well as answering ?’s from students and that is found here) Alina from Mexico City chatted with us from India, describing the experiences she’s had from Mexico City to volunteering in India, to studying at Yale,
alumni from ASF Mexico City, studied the events of Upward Bound students for the past year to create a soundtrack for the banquet occurring here in Delaware,
Educator Paul Allison enabled students to be involved with a Current Talk course that enabled students to explore how to be effective when opinions differ, in a positive and not hateful way. Students would have a chance to turn their issue posters into shared commentary among other students with LRNG. Ms Grice’s career photography competition connected individuals from Korea, the U.S., Mexico, Egypt to name a FEW, and connected their voices in comments about what made the contributing 12 photography students’ images moving. Add to this the generous contribution of Louis Cotto-Vasallo’s photographic book for the top three winners of the contest –
Taking on the challenges of virtual reality with James Wheatley to take students to Mexico City and show the myths of the country heard through media and seeing the virtual reality through the lens, priceless. Students utilizing donated books from Bethany Beach Books, the title Unwind from Neal Schusterman, and discovering connections to social topics that need a voice. Creating the medium of ‘Zines to show youth have a creative tool in reaching the masses and educating and informing. This is only a peek into what occurred in the summer weeks at Upward Bound.
Certainly if the PBL approach to these themes were presented day in and day out, these approaches to education were widespread, every student in every school would be bringing the ideas inside the classrooms – into their own communities and their energy would not be stopped – and would be contagious among community leaders and other educators to change as well. Some of these colleagues do already teach like this day in and day out, which gives me the enthusiasm to push this approach more and more. I would have to say, students such as those I found myself surrounded by in Upward Bound? – it was no longer a summer duty, it was a summer privilege to figure out new ways to learn alongside students and place a new stamp on what education can be.
Take all this into consideration and then try to put into a category the true poets who see this transformation in students and press on to make sure this happens every single summer – Ms Rebecca Evaristo, Ms. Cheryl Miller, Ms. Megan, Mr. Connor, Mr Billy, Ms. Lois, Ms. Cenicola, Ms. Davis, the whole Talent search team, and you have individuals that change students’ lives every single day, and create a future that never existed before. I have never, hands-down, seen such a program that took students that felt they had no future, and nothing but dead-ends, and surrounded them with the ability to change their future for dreams they’ve had all along, and follow the students as they do just that.
I would say the true poets that continue to interrogate beauty are those individuals above, along with the willing educators, that have allowed this program to continue, that allow the additions for Delaware’s future to increase exponentially. When you have a collection of former students and adults from other countries willing to discuss via Google hang out on air, on their time, key issues that need to be questioned amid the mainstream media, when you have teachers and organizational members from Toastmasters, local museums and organizations like The Shriner’s organization willing to open their doors and spend time to validate how they impact their communities, when you have individuals willing to validate photography at the drop of a dime, when you have these same individuals willing to pay tribute to these students as they have reached another amazing year of accomplishment, you have a community of possibility for positive change. Despite what the government, media, and local and international politicians say, express, or translate, these very individuals that are provided dreams learn nothing can break or deter the enthusiasm and possibility of one’s voice an activism. That alone will enable change that communities need to become more positive and influential.
Surrounding yourself with individuals that believe positive change can occur, and believe this starts with youth and occurs alongside the very individuals who want a better future in the form of educators, this opportunity is one that can not be validated enough. Kudos to Ms. Evaristo and Ms. Miller how know how much this opportunity will sow the opportunity for a better future for all of us. One year, of many, seems to have the ability to change the whole future for so many.