by Jennifer Allmaras ’17

You’ve probably heard that engaging with the community is part of the liberal arts in practice, an essential experience for every Beloit College student. However, many students don’t know about opportunities for community engagement located right on campus. Just past the Office of International Education you’ll find the orange house on the corner, home to the Upward Bound program.

Upward Bound is a federally-funded program that provides high school students with educational opportunities designed to prepare them for college. Members of the program are low-income and/or potential first generation college students that may lack college guidance at home.

According to UB Director Jarett Fields, Upward Bound’s vision is to “empower students to become positive leaders who change their world.” He adds:

“our role is to not just help students get degrees, but to help them understand that their degree is really a means to an end, the end being the capacity, will, and knowledge to change their world.”

To its students, Upward Bound’s role is more than just an academic program. A junior in the program recently confessed, “I knew [Upward Bound] was a pre-college program, but once I got involved I realized it was more like a family than anything else.” Another student has noted that not only has Upward Bound helped him with his academics, but the program has also “increased [his] confidence” by helping him make friends and connecting him with educational opportunities within a family-like environment.  

Upward Bound not only does great work in the community, but encourages its students to do this work as well. Through Upward Bound’s long-term volunteer partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank, students are “give[n] an opportunity to help in their immediate community” which in turn may “help them understand the world around them,” Jarett says. Because first-generation, low-income students are known to return to their communities, Upward Bound sees its students as future leaders who will one day “use their skills and talents to help whatever community they find themselves in, including the Beloit community,” Jarett adds.

Upward Bound students volunteer at Second Harvest twice a month.

In fact, Upward Bound’s  Academic Coordinator, Cruz Rodriguez, is an alumnus of the program.  He graduated from Beloit Memorial High School in 2011 and earned his bachelor’s degree from Dominican University in 2015.  (While she is not an alumna of the program, Assistant Director Vanessa Beckham also graduated from Beloit Memorial High School in 2005.  She has been working for Upward Bound for the last four years.)

Beloit Memorial students’ own experience with volunteer opportunities says it all. A sophomore in the program states that he participates in every Second Harvest volunteer opportunity, seeing the experience as a chance to give back to an organization that helped his family significantly when he was younger. Perfectly aligning with Upward Bound’s vision for the program and its students, he goes on to add that his plan is to return to Beloit after college in order to make a difference in the community.

Are you looking for opportunities to engage in the Beloit community? If so, consider working with Upward Bound!  Beloit College students are an important part of the Upward Bound program through their roles as tutors, summer resident assistants, research mentors, and senior peer mentors. Sabrina Sanchez ‘17 has been tutoring and mentoring students within the program since her freshman year, and has even facilitated health education workshops for the students on multiple occasions. Sabrina describes her experience with Upward Bound as “extraordinarily positive!”:

“Upward Bound has allowed me to connect with and guide and learn from some amazing students. Seeing their intelligence, good spirits, and ‘woke’ ideologies has really given me hope for the future. Upward Bound is an essential program that helps build, guide, and support the future leaders this country needs.”

Sabrina Sanchez, ’17 leads an Upward Bound Health Education Workshop

Regardless whether you’re a first year or a rising senior, it’s never too late to get involved in the Beloit community, whether it be through Upward Bound, Second Harvest, or other off-campus opportunities. As a wise Upward Bound student put it,

“volunteering is an important way to give back to the community, and if we have the capabilities, we should always do what we can to help.”

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