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NMJC Upward Bound Program Seeking Students for Success

NMJC Upward Bound Program Seeking Students for Success photo 7/25/2010 7:30:40 p.m. - Hobbs, NM. In the next few weeks, Debbie Pruitt will be looking for 28 Lea County high school students who want to have fun—while they’re learning to be successful in school and in life. The program consists of a maximum of 50 first-generation, low-income students throughout every academic year. She is charged with filling spots that the class of 2010 and others have left vacant.

Pruitt, who is the Director of Upward Bound, a federally funded TRiO program at New Mexico Junior College, recently announced that the highly successful program is currently accepting applications from freshmen, sophomores, and juniors in Eunice, Hobbs, Jal, Lovington, and Tatum for the 2010-2011 school year. If accepted, students will enjoy some surprising benefits, such as taking career-related field trips, attending cultural events, visiting various college campuses in the U.S., learning about scholarships, being exposed to various career fields and even being paid to maintain good grades.

Upward Bound began in 1964 as the first TRiO program to be funded through the Higher Education Act.  Upward Bound prepares select high school students for college by supporting, mentoring, and encouraging them as it gives them the skills necessary for ultimately earning a bachelor’s degree.

“Requirements for Upward Bound students are simple, but they must be strictly maintained,” Pruitt said. Students must commit to attending one on-campus Academic Saturday session each month during the school year. In the summer, from Monday through Friday, they must attend a five-week on-campus Summer Institute or “mock college,” in which they live in the dorms, eat in the cafeteria, and attend classes daily in Science, Math, English, and a foreign language. They also participate in ACT preparation, physical education, and various other activities. 

The summer session is immediately followed by a highly anticipated weeklong trip to somewhere in the U.S.  On this trip, they visit a university and participate in educational and cultural activities. This summer, Pruitt and the Upward Bound students enjoyed an all-expense-paid trip to Orlando, Florida, to visit the University of Central Florida, the Orlando Science Center, and the Disney World Youth Education Series, where they were allowed to go behind the scenes at the popular “Haunted Mansion” attraction. “Some of our students had never flown before, so that was just as exciting as going to Disney World,” she said.  Other college-visit trips have included Washington, D.C., University of Maryland, University of Houston, UNM, Texas Tech, San Diego State, NMSU, University of Texas-El Paso, Arizona State University, University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, and the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, as well as many others.

In addition, other UB requirements include that students must maintain a 2.5 GPA at school, keep up-to-date tutoring logs when necessary, communicate with UB staff on a weekly basis, turn in all report cards and progress reports, and participate in one community service project per semester in order to receive a monthly stipend.  Past community service projects included manning phone lines for the City of Hobbs Parks & Recreation Department’s “Calls from Santa” project, serving at Lea Regional Hospital’s “Lea County Healthy Women” event, and helping at other events for Relay-for-Life, Stuff-a-Bus, and United Way. “This program’s about being successful in life, and part of that is learning how to be a successful member of the community by giving back,” said Pruitt.

Students also get to take a number of field trips related to their fields of interest.  Last year, for instance, when one student expressed an interest in being a chef, Pruitt arranged for students to visit the head chef of Zia Park’s Black Gold Casino restaurants.  Other local field trips include visits to Lea Regional Hospital, Hobbs Police Department, Sadler Monument, Cowboy Junction (horse therapy demonstration), and even a trip to explore caves and visit Sitting Bull Falls.

Parents are often surprised to learn there’s no cost for any of the many benefits that Upward Bound provides. Transportation is provided (except for tutoring and the monthly Saturday sessions), meals are provided, and everything is paid for on trips. In addition to providing free tutoring for math, science, English, and a foreign language, as well as preparing students for the ACT college entrance exam, Upward Bound also pays for students to take the ACT up to three times. Students can take the ACT once in their junior year and twice in their senior year to try to improve their score. 

While her students’ average score on the ACT is 20, comparable to the national average for all students, one of her students recently scored an impressive 27. “It’s a proven fact that our students’ scores are considerably higher than what they would have achieved on their own,” said Pruitt. “In addition, we teach them how to interview, fill out forms, and apply for scholarships—anything that will help them be successful in their journey to getting their four-year degree,” she said. 

“The best candidates for Upward Bound are students who are genuinely interested in working hard to get good grades and who want help preparing for college but just don’t know how to do it themselves,” Pruitt said.  “We’ve witnessed shy, quiet kids who are pretty unsure of themselves blossom into highly confident leaders who’ll make a difference in the world around them.  It’s been proven time and again that nationally, students in programs like this are four times more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree than students from similar backgrounds who didn’t participate. Being a part of that kind of success is definitely rewarding for me and the rest of the Upward Bound team,” she said, “but can you imagine what it does for them individually?”

Pruitt said that students can apply several ways, but they need to act quickly because of the limited openings.  “We always have a waiting list, so students need to apply soon. They can go online and fill out the Pre-Application Form at http://www.nmjc.edu/studentservices/trio/upwardbound.asp.  Or they can go by any of the Lea County high school counseling offices and get an interest card to mail to us.  They can also contact Maria Hernandez, the Administrative Secretary, at mhernandez@nmjc.edu or Elena Dominguez, the Academic Coordinator, at edominguez@nmjc.edu.  Students can also call us at 575.492.2616 or 575.492.2606, or best of all, they can come by the NMJC campus and visit us upstairs in Room 224 of the Ben Alexander Student Learning Center.  We always look forward to visiting with students and parents alike.”

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