By Christina Calloway
PNT senior writer
Rodrick Chambers, the area’s Upward Bound director, says the program provides opportunities for area high school students that they would not have been exposed to without the program.
That’s why Chambers is surprised that this federal year-round program, deemed successful by many communities across the nation for serving first generation college students in low-income households, has received harsh program cuts for the upcoming grant cycle.
One year ago, the area’s Upward Bound program, hosted at Eastern New Mexico University, was on the chopping block for federal budget cuts that would have stopped the program for at least a year.
Chambers said the program survived being cut and has been funded for another grant cycle (five years) but has lost some of its major components.
Upward Bound at ENMU has seen a jump in the number of students they serve from 68 last year to approximately 80 this upcoming school year, according to Chambers.
The previous grant allowed the program at ENMU to serve seven area high schools, including Dora, Elida, Texico and Melrose.
Now their newest grant will only allow them to serve Portales High School and Clovis High School students.
“It’s unfortunate we have to cut these students,” Chambers said, adding that a good portion of their previous students came from Texico.
The 80 students they will serve this year will no longer be able to reside on campus during the program, as the program’s residential component has been cut.
“Students will no longer live in the dorms for the summer program,” Chambers said. “Students enjoy the college experience and being away from the house.”
Chambers says funding for educational programs has been cut nationwide and he is thankful that Upward Bound was spared. He added that at least two Upward Bound programs in the state were cut completely.
“A lot of education programs are being cut back and forth,” Chambers said. “We were fortunate to have President Obama to recognize the impactive program based on results.”
Chambers also said funding for students’ travel to visit other universities has been cut. The new grant cycle is also requiring them to strengthen their core courses, which include math, science and English. The program also incorporates leadership skill building.
“One of things I greatly appreciate, is that Upward Bound gives the students the opportunity to go outside of their community,” Chambers said.
Last week, Chambers and his students went to Chicago to visit area colleges and landmarks. He says it’s unfortunate that future students won’t be able to experience that kind of trip, but he still believes in the strengths of the program.
“I think just being associated with the program, it gives (students) something to reach for,” Chambers said.
Mindy Watson, Title V project director at Clovis Community College, said their Upward Bound program did not endure any cuts for this new grant cycle. CCC will received $250,000 a year for five years for the program.
Watson added the program had planned to incorporate a residential portion, but decided to leave it out of their grant proposal for logistical reasons, not funding.
She said their Upward Bound program has also seen an increase in the number of students they serve, from 50 to 55 this school year. She too believes in what Upward Bound does for the local community.
“Upward Bound gives Clovis students a lot of opportunities not afforded to them without the program such as, the ability to afford college and even explore college as an option,” Watson said. “They can dream a lot bigger than the program and the program provides them the tools for those dreams.”