In addition to their regular class schedules, many East St. Louis Senior High School students are making time to attend a course that will help them better prepare for college. Southern Illinois University Edwardsville East St. Louis Center’s (ESLC) Upward Bound Scholars Academy is a new program that for the first time brings college instruction to students during class hours.
“College is a little scary. I don’t know what to expect,” said 15-year-old Taylor Ackins, a freshman at East St. Louis Senior High who is enrolled in the ESLC’s Upward Bound Program. “But I plan to go, and I want to learn what I can now.”
“Upward Bound Scholars Academy is a college-preparatory program,” said Salim Kenyatta, Upward Bound Scholars Program educational advisor. “Its purpose is to create in program participants, the skills and motivation necessary to complete a program of secondary education and succeed in college.”
“The SIUE East St. Louis Center has been providing college access programming through Upward Bound for more than 50 years,” said ESLC Executive Director Jesse Dixon. “We are thrilled to be providing this new Upward Bound Scholars Academy program that works with students during the school day and allows our team to do it on a daily basis.”
In its inaugural year, the program has 50 students enrolled, consisting of freshmen and seniors. Only students in good academic standing can apply for the program, which is taken as an elective course, according to Kenyatta.
Some of the program’s services include:
- Personal college, career and life counseling
- Academic advisement and assistance
- Tutorial support
- Leadership development
- A six-week summer program filled with academic workshops and enrichment activities.
“Salim Kenyatta has built great relationships with the young people at East St. Louis Senior High,” said David L. Shanks Sr., assistant principal at East St. Louis Senior High. “He has inspired them to work on building their personal skills, to broaden their academic potential and to actualize their goals.”
During one class session, Kenyatta is giving the students a personality test.
“It’s good to get to know yourself and your strengths and weaknesses,” he tells the students. “At college, you will come in contact with a lot of different personalities. You can learn how to work successfully with different people and not be in conflict.”
“I’m not scared about going to college. I’m looking forward to it,” said 15-year-old Lorrionna Fields, who wants to be a pediatrician.
“Because inner city students need as much college exposure as they can get to be successful, it is great to have the Upward Bound Scholars Academy in our school,” said Shanks. “The program gives our students an engaging weekly college lecture hall experience.”
“I hope the program helps our students become lifelong learners,” he added, “with a drive to become great at whatever they want to do in life.”
Upward Bound Scholars Academy (UBSA) is a TRIO program federally funded by the U.S. Department of Education. UBSA serves high school students from low-income families, and high school students from families in which neither parent holds a bachelor’s degree. The goal of Upward Bound is to increase the rate at which participants complete secondary education and enroll in and graduate from institutions of postsecondary education.
With a focus on empowering people and strengthening communities, the SIUE East St. Louis Center is dedicated to improving the lives of families and individuals—from pre-school through adult—in the Metro East region. The Center offers programs that give the community renewed hope and an opportunity to reach educational, career and life goals. It does so by providing comprehensive programs, services and training in the areas of education, health, social services and the arts.