Sacred Heart University's Upward Bound Program Receives $1.1 Million Grant

News Story:

The federal Department of Education has awardedSacredHeartUniversity’s Upward Bound program a four-year grant totaling more than $1.1 million.

The grant provides funding for the educational program that offers academic support to 55 Bridgeport area high school students, most of whom are from low income families whose parents are not college graduates.

“Our goal is to have them perform the best they can in high school, have them graduate from high school and get them into college. Our job is to give them a competitive edge,” said Carylanne Rice-Ehalt, director of the college preparatory program, which has a retention rate of more than 89 percent each year and numerous success stories to share from its 18-year history.

She has seen poor-performing students go from nearly failing out of school to improving their academics and attitudes.

More than 1,000 students have participated in SHU’s Upward Bound program since its inception in 1989. One of the early participants graduated from Harding High School in Bridgeport, received a master’s degree and is operating a similar program in Washington, D.C., Rice-Ehalt said.

“We have alumni that are working in the medical, legal and educational fields and still remain in contact with the program so that they can contribute back to their community,” Rice-Ehalt said.

“The university has an established record of success with this program, and has made higher education a reality for so many students who would not otherwise have the skills necessary for success beyond secondary school,” said U.S. Congressman Christopher Shays (CT-4).

Since 1989 when Upward Bound first began at SHU, the program has received over $4 million in federal funding. Upward Bound will receive the first installment of $283,142 in September, according to Rice-Ehalt.  Federal expenditure per student is more than $5,100.

Rice-Ehalt said Upward Bound provides students with an invaluable educational experience year-round. The program comprises two components – the academic year component which runs in conjunction with the high school calendar from September to May offering 18 to 20 Saturday workshops and tutoring sessions, and a six-week intensive summer program of academic classes from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in July and August.

Upward Bound gives students academic instruction in mathematics, science, composition, literature and foreign language. The program also exposes students to potential college majors and career options in the fields of psychology, sociology and journalism. “This summer we’re going to have a debating class,” Rice-Ehalt said.

Juniors and seniors receive free SAT workshops and all students receive mentoring, counseling, work study programs and cultural enrichment.

The summer session concludes with a three-day field trip for those students who have worked diligently even if they don’t achieve the highest grades and a banquet for students and their families to recognize what the students have achieved over the summer. Savings bonds are awarded for academic excellence and perseverance.

This summer there are 13 faculty members teaching 17 classes, including four levels of math and science. “They will have homework, they will have tests, they will have final exams. I have to make it tough because they need to be prepared for college. They’re not going to coddle you in college, but I also have to make it attractive so they want to come to Upward Bound…Homework is only once a week because I truly believe kids need to have a break. It can’t be academics 24 hours a day,” Rice-Ehalt said.

“My staff and I spend our time getting to know these kids outside the academic setting because the more I know about each student the better I can serve them. The individual attention that’s given to each student in the program really contributes to the success of Upward Bound,” Rice-Ehalt said.