‘Upward Bound’ grant brings diversity to NMU

Kali Cochran

NMU’s Upward Bound Math-Science program, designed to strengthen math and science skills of participating high school students, recently received a $296,000 grant, the highest yet from a grant cycle provided by the U.S. Department of Education that began November 2012.

re-upwardboundThe grants awarded from Nov. 31 to Oct. 31 are on a 5-year grant cycle, Julie Bowerman, director of Upward Bound Math-Science, said. This year is the grant’s last cycle, expiring on Oct. 31. However, the next grant will be written for local students in the Marquette area and then for students in the whole U.P. in the winter of 2017.

The grant is used to provide tutoring and homework help after school. Students’ test scores are looked at to figure out where they’re lacking in studies so that they can get help for the upcoming year, Bowerman said.

“We also use the money for technology,” Bowerman said.

In the program, students complete monthly assignments and receive guidance from tutors. They live in the dorms and eat in the cafeteria.

“They do what college students do and get the skills and experience college students have,” Bowerman said.

Anyone can join as long as certain qualified expectations are met. Students must have at least a 2.5 GPA, have a desire to attend college and have some type of interest in math or science. According to the U.S. Department of Education website, eligibility for Upward Bound requires two-thirds of all participants to be low-income, first-generation college students. The remaining one-third must be either low-income, first-generation college students or students who have a high risk for academic failure. Tax forms show whether a student is qualified and can be a part of the program.

“The goal of this program is to help students recognize and develop their potential to excel in math and science and to encourage them to pursue postsecondary degrees in math and science—and ultimately careers in the math and science profession,” Bowerman said.

This is a year-round academic program that includes an intensive 6-week summer experience for students who have completed academic year requirements. It is designed to strengthen the math and science skills of participating students, Bowerman said.

Taylor Ayers, freshman and former Upward Bound student, said she came to college because of the Upward Bound program.

“It especially prepared me for college at Northern,” she added.

Ayers participated in Upward Bound for three years and was given a grant from NMU for being a part of the program. She also took summer classes that were paid for so she could get the ins and outs of a basic college class.

“There were between 20 to 26 students in my group this year,” Ayers said. “We lived in West Hall over the summer.”

The program is intended to help students apply for college and financial aid as well as choose proper course schedules. Once students go to college, they are reported to the federal Department of Education.

“The expectations are for them to graduate with a 4-year degree,” Bowerman said. “But the goal is for students to graduate within six years with a bachelor’s degree.”

The program’s services include hosting summer programs with intensive math and science training, computer training, exposure to university faculty members who do research in mathematics and sciences, and participant-conducted scientific research under the guidance of faculty members or graduate students who are serving as mentors.

“The goal for this year is to improve the student skills, and not with just math and science, but reading and writing skills too,” Bowerman said.

Bowerman travels by herself to high schools in the Metro Detroit area to recruit students who need help. She said NMU has target schools they work with in the Detroit area.

“I think working in Detroit is a diverse area, and we try to get a diverse population,” Bowerman said. “We get everybody.”

White students make up the smallest number in the program, but the program has a mixture of students with different races, ethnicities and religions. They each learn from one another living in the dormitory as a unit.

Bowerman said there is only her and her secretary as far as upper staff. So most of the money goes to students joining the program and the staff that help and work with the students.

“We are the only math-science Upward Bound program in Michigan,” she said, adding, “We are trying to cover most of Michigan.”