A federally funded program at Chadron State College has been giving students from three high schools in northwest Nebraska a taste of college life this summer.
More than 40 students of Chadron, Alliance and Gordon-Rushville high schools are nearing completion of CSC’s Upward Bound six-week summer program.
Dr. Rex Cogdill, CSC director of TRiO programs, said Upward Bound is designed to help the students succeed in high school and put them on the path to a college degree. The students, who were in grades 8-10 during the previous academic year, have been staying in Brooks Hall during the learning experience.
“They had classes to go to every day, with study periods, tests, eating in the cafeteria, living in the residence halls – all of those things, like a college student does in his or her freshman year,” Cogdill said.
CSC’s Upward Bound program was funded in 2007 by a four-year grant that awards $250,000 to the college each year. Upward Bound is one of six federal TRiO programs designed to motivate and support students from disadvantaged backgrounds in their educational endeavors. In addition to assisting people with lower incomes, Upward Bound services are targeted for “first-generation college students,” defined as those whose parents do not hold a four-year agree.
In addition to the summer program, Upward Bound provides comprehensive services to the students during the academic year, including tutoring, ACT test preparation assistance, individual counseling and assistance with selecting a college to attend by sponsoring college visits.
The students are required to study a foreign language, mathematics, composition, literature and a laboratory science while on campus for the summer program. Cogdill said the program slightly differs from a true college experience in that the students are taken home for the weekends and are required to stay on campus during the week.
Many people have been involved in making the program successful. Among them were the teachers, Cogdill said.
He noted that Jennifer McCafferty, who taught Spanish for the program, is the granddaughter of Jim McCafferty, who helped implement CSC’s first Upward Bound program more than four decades ago. Funding for the Upward Bound program at CSC ceased in the 1970s, but was renewed after the college was successful in last year’s grant competition.
Other teachers of the summer program were CSC alumna and Crawford High School teacher Kristin Rees of Chadron, composition and literature; CSC faculty member Laura Benz, art; and Upward Bound academic advisor Jeff Shald, mathematics.
Cogdill said said vital assistance also was provided by Jerri Albright-Borges, the program’s academic advisor in Alliance, and the staffs of residence life program, food service and conferencing office.
In addition to the traditional academic courses, students learned other life skills. Those subjects, which were taught by locally recognized experts, included horsemanship by Leann Canaday, golf by CSC Coach Michele Rickenbach, juggling from Shald and self defense by CSC Security Supervisor Dave Lehman. The students also attended shows at the Post Playhouse at Fort Robinson State Park, went swimming at Chadron State Park, bowled at the local alley and planted trees on C Hill.
Cogdill said that just as with college, there were a few behavior issues, but that most of the students matured during their time on campus.
“We had some of the incidents you see with first-year college students – adjustments to different friends and surroundings, some acting out in certain ways,” he said. “We had some students who got mad at their roommates and wanted to change. Some made different friends than the ones they came with.”
Despite the expected stumbling blocks, Cogdill said the program is meeting its goal of getting most of the students on track toward a college degree. He said it also helped build relationships among the students of the three schools that otherwise wouldn’t have happened. In the final days of the campus experience, one student wrote him an unsolicited e-mail to thank him for the opportunity provided by the program, and to let him know that the summer would go down as one of the best ever. He said similar comments can be found on many of the students’ MySpace and Facebook pages.
“For anyone who has ever been in the field of education, this is the ultimate compliment,” he said. “To know that you have made a positive impact on someone’s life is very satisfying.”
During the sixth and final week of the program, which begins Monday, July 7, the students are traveling western Nebraska and eastern Wyoming on a field trip that focuses on energy and natural resources. Before leaving northwest Nebraska, they will tour the Crow Butte Uranium Mine near Crawford and hear a presentation about water quality of the Chadron Creek watershed. Among the sites they will tour on the trip are the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska Wind Project near Kimball, the Gerald Gentleman Power Plant near Sutherland, the Kingsley Hydroelectric Generating Station at Lake McConaughy and the Black Thunder Coal Mine in Wyoming.
Upward Bound is one of two TRIO programs at CSC. CSC’s Student Support Services program, Project Strive, also is a TRIO program. That project was initiated in 2001 and began its second four-year funding cycle in 2005.
Next year, the program will be under new leadership as Cogdill is leaving CSC to be Dean of Student Services at Eastern Wyoming College in Torrington. He said he will miss friends and colleagues, and especially the Upward Bound students.
“I’m excited for what the future holds for these students and will miss finding out how they do in high school and what they do after they graduate,” he said.
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