Kingsport’s Dobyns-Bennett High School Principal Chris Hampton said if it was not for the Upward Bound program at East Tennessee State University, he may never have gone to college.
“It really gave me an opportunity to see what opportunities were available in higher education,” Hampton said Wednesday.
Hampton was a first-generation college student, so he had no convenient access to someone to tell him how to succeed in college. He entered Upward Bound as a sophomore in high school and was exposed to college through tutoring and summer programs at ETSU.
“I had a great leg up as opposed to other first-time freshmen,” he said.
Upward Bound was begun at ETSU in 1982 to help first-generation college students transition into college by offering help during high school. The program offers tutoring, ACT preparation and workshops on topics such as career counseling, career planning, test-taking and note-taking for some 200 local high school students, according to ETSU.
Recently the program was given continued funding in the amount of nearly $1 million via three grants from the U.S. Department of Education. The grants will last until 2017.
In addition to the Department of Education, Upward Bound also receives funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as from ETSU, the university said in a news release.
Ronnie Gross, director of TRIO Programs for ETSU’s office of enrollment services, said part of the grant-awarding process is analyzing student graduation rates, enrollment rates and standardized test scores.
“So it just shows the effectiveness of our partnerships with the local high schools,” Gross said of receiving the continued funding. “So just like the schools, we’re held accountable for their (student) performance.”
Gross said there are more than 700 Upward Bound programs operating in the country, which makes for a very competitive environment for funding.
Upward Bound offers tutoring throughout the academic year. Students are bused to and from the ETSU campus. Students are also invited to live on campus during the summer. During the summer program, students get paired with courses that will benefit them in the upcoming academic year. For instance, if a student will be taking geometry this fall, this summer, that student will be instructed in the appropriate mathematics to be successful.
Upward Bound students also have the opportunity to do a summer work-study where they shadow a person whose job requires a bachelor’s degree. Gross said this job shadowing gives students insight into what they will be doing in 10 years.
Hampton said he had the aptitude to succeed in college, but without the confidence he acquired through Upward Bound and the knowledge he gained from the program, he may not have graduated from ETSU and gone on to become a high school principal.
“I’m not sure I would have been a college graduate, I’m just not sure,” Hampton said. “So I owe a great deal to Dr. Gross and that program as a whole.”