RIT Upward Bound program provides high school students a taste of the college experience

Virtual summer program helps 9-12 graders build independent learning skills

Associate Professor Robert Osgood teaches biology to a class of students enrolled in RIT’s Upward Bound summer program.

Rochester Institute of Technology’s Upward Bound summer program is providing area high school students a preview of life as a college student. This year, 24 students from the Leadership Academy for Young Men and Greece Olympia High School participated in the six-week enrichment program, held virtually for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The program serves students in grades 9-12 who are potential first-generation college students or low-income according to federal guidelines. The students attend daily online classes in subjects such as English language arts, science, math, and American Sign Language. They can check in with their professors during scheduled office hours, receive live tutoring sessions, and have cultural activity days on Fridays that feature activities such as yoga sessions and cooking lessons.

While the summer program typically offers students an opportunity to live in RIT’s dorms, that was not possible this year due to precautions in place related to coronavirus. But the program’s organizers say the online format in some ways gives them a more authentic academic experience.

“We went from a more structured schedule to a more real college schedule in terms of they have to be responsible for checking in, be responsible for their own tutoring, and taking some time out for some of the fun stuff,” said Kareem Hayes, director of the Upward Bound Classic at RIT. “So that’s been a silver lining for us. Also, typically we have younger students who attend our summer program because the older students are working, but now we have more upperclassmen participating because of the flexibility.”

Ivanna Colon, assistant director of the Upward Bound Classic program, also said this year’s program is very oriented toward independent learning and that the students are learning crucial skills that will help them succeed if they attend college.

“The time management piece is big,” said Colon. “Students struggle a lot during the academic year with trying to figure out how do I manage my time to be in class, get work done, and still have fun. For some of them in ninth and 10th grade, they’re just really solidifying those skills now because they’re at home and there’s no one physically there saying ‘it’s time to jump on your Zoom’ or ‘you need to do this assignment.’ They have to figure out how to make the time to do those things.”

The summer program concludes Aug. 8. To learn more about Upward Bound Classic, visit the Upward Bound Classic website.

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