Redlands Upward Bound Program Provides Scholarships, Preps High School Students for College

College can be an overwhelming experience. A new campus, unfamiliar faces, plus challenging coursework can intimidate students into quitting before they even start. For some, there also may be added pressure of becoming the first person in their family to graduate from college. It’s a lot to handle. 

The Upward Bound program exists to squash those feelings of insecurity. 

Upward Bound is an intense, federally funded, year-round program for high school students. It prepares students academically, culturally and socially to succeed in life after high school. Through classes and activities, the Upward Bound staff assist low-income, first-generation, college-bound students in developing the skills to help them during college years. 

The Redlands chapter of Upward Bound serves six area high schools in El Reno, Geary, Calumet, Hinton, Minco and Union City. There are currently 64 students from grades 9-12 who are participating in the program. 

Redlands Upward Bound Director Kacey Daniels said the goal is to reach students early on, preferably either eighth or ninth grade, and stay with them through their senior year of high school. The ultimate goal is for students to go to college and receive either an associate or bachelor’s degree. 

“We promote college and also give them the necessary skills and mindset they need to get there. We help parents a lot as well. All students and their parents attend a federal aid seminar when they reach senior year to help them step-by-step through the process,” Daniels said. 

Daniels talked at length about mindset and how that is crucial to setting up students for success.

“We do an ACT exam prep, take them on college campus tours and participate in cultural activities such as attending plays and sharing in volunteer work. We also have students complete ropes courses and other team building activities to help them learn leadership skills and get them out of their comfort zone,” Daniels said.

The program continues through summer break for six weeks. During the summer, students work on academics to get a head start on what they will learn the upcoming year in high school. Plus, there is an added bonus of an out-of-state trip at the end of the summer for students who maintain good attendance and exhibit exemplary behavior. 

“We always keep the trip destination a secret until we’re a few hours away and then we reveal where we are headed. We’ve been to Chicago, Nashville and Disney World and have fun doing activities unique to that city. And of course, we always tour a local college or two while we are there,” Daniels said. 

Local entrepreneur donates scholarship funds 

Piyush Patel, accomplished online entrepreneur and best-selling author, was an Upward Bound student at Redlands in the 1980s. Patel started in the eighth grade and went through the entire program upon graduating El Reno High School. 

Patel recalls, “After graduation, I went back to help as an aid and drove the van to pick up students. My parents had a tough time helping me with homework so the staff were invaluable in helping me build a foundation of success.”

Patel received not only tools and resources to be successful, but also exposure to college campuses. He still remembers how valuable the Upward Bound program was to him and wanted to give back. As a result, he and his wife decided to set up a $30,000 scholarship fund to help future graduates. 

“If we can be a part of helping other Oklahomans earn education beyond high school, it’s a great thing for our state and community. This is a scholarship fund that will be there for as long as the program exists,” Patel said. 

There are 10 awards totaling $30,000 available for this year’s Upward Bound seniors. Each senior must meet certain qualifications to be eligible for the scholarship.

Scholarship award recipients will be announced at the Upward Bound banquet scheduled to be held on April 30. It is a time to recognize the hard work of senior students, hand out awards and encourage them one last time to fulfill their dream of graduating from college.

For more information about the Redlands Upward Bound Program, contact the Upward Bound Office at (405) 422-1250 or email Kacey Daniels.