Upward Bound Career Fair Touches Young Lives

Popular program’s funding under threat.



By Barbara Melendez


TAMPA, Fla. (Mar. 1, 2010) – What some take for granted in preparing for college is completely unknown territory for many and that’s where Upward Bound steps in. With Upward Bound, first-generation, low-income students learn what it takes to aspire to college and then follow through to apply to and succeed in college. Without it they would not know where to begin. 



A career fair over the weekend, presented in conjunction with the USF College Reach-Out program, introduced Upward Bound students to professionals who work for some of Tampa’s leading companies – Price Waterhouse Coopers, Taco Bell, Tampa General Hospital, the U.S. Air Force, Hillsborough County, USF’s own Department of Family Medicine and some of the area’s top banks and law firms. This event and others like it address the shortage of role models in these students’ lives, by giving them the opportunity to meet, hear from and talk to people who explain how they arrived at successful careers and what students need to do to enter their professions. 


“The program provides exposure to and experience with all the factors that go into getting ready to apply to college and then complete college,” said Sharman McRae, the program’s director. “Most public high schools do not provide the one-on-one services so crucial to this process.”


And true to past experience, this year’s career fair was a great success.


“We had a firefighter join us and an airline pilot who surprised our students with how many African American airline pilots there are, male and female, and several expressed an interest in those professions,” McRae said. “We also had bankers from Citibank, Regions Financial and Bank of America and after our students found out how much money they make, a lot of them said they wanted to become bankers. It was a very exciting day for all of us.” 


Since 1966, over 2,400 students have participated in USF Upward Bound with 128 students participating this year. Students find it worthwhile.


Deja’Nique Frierson from Tampa Bay Technical High School said, “Without Upward Bound, I probably would have never seen all of the universities I have seen; so I thank them for this experience.”


And there are tangible results.  Over 99.7% of students who complete USF’s Upward Bound graduate from high school; the state average is 76%. Furthermore, Upward Bound students’ FCAT scores are above the district average for all grade levels. From there over 99% of students who complete USF Upward Bound are accepted into college and 96% have enrolled in a postsecondary institution. Exposure to new worlds and academic help are key parts of the program, but it’s the nurturing atmosphere that helps keep the students on track.     


“When I attend Upward Bound on Saturday morning, it feels like I am at my second home, surrounded by a family that cares about me,” said Jasmine Stallworth, a student at Wharton High School.


The thousands who have benefitted from Upward Bound can similarly testify to the powerful role it played in their success.  But a significant number of programs around the country are under threat. The fiscal year 2011 budget before Congress does not include enough money to fund all of the existing 956 programs for the 2011 to 2012 academic year. In fact, it only provides for 778 programs, a reduction of 28 percent. A competition is being set up by the Department of Education’s Council for Opportunity in Education for Classic Upward Bound, to be held in late summer or early fall of this year. Factoring in new applicants and needed increases in funding for existing programs, there is a potential loss of 275 current and new programs.


McRae is attending an Education Policy Seminar in Washington, D.C. March 21-23, to lobby senators and representatives to not cut the TRIO budget. TRIO (not an acronym) is a set of federally funded college opportunity programs geared to low-income and potential first-generation college students. McRae will be working with all those who are fighting the cuts on the local and national levels.

“The cost of housing and food for the program goes up every year,” McRae said. “What we really need is an increase in funding to provide the same level of exposure and experiences and, if anything, we would love to be able to help even more children. Cuts are completely out of place when we provide such an important service to young people whose lives are literally changed for the better by what we do.”



The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of only 25 public research universities nationwide with very high research activity that is designated as community engaged by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.  USF was awarded $380.4 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2008/2009. The university offers 232 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The USF System has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 47,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.