Imagine having a door open to a world that you never imagined, an opportunity you didn’t think was possible.
For teens in Santa Ana, that door to a college education is available to them, thanks to the federally funded program Upward Bound at Cal State Fullerton.
Next month, 36 teens from four Santa Ana high schools will get their first taste of the university experience and learn to think like a college students.
Upward Bound helps eligible high school students prepare for and succeed in college by offering them year-round academic support and enrichment activities. The program begins as they transition into ninth grade and works with them through high school.
According to Ivan Peña, director of the University program, they’re not just getting students ready to apply for college — they’re preparing them for college graduation.
“We’re one of just a few federal grants that actually tracks students for six years after high school graduation,” he explained. “We give them the skills that will help them graduate from college.”
In order to better prepare Upward Bound students for the competitiveness of higher education, Cal State Fullerton incorporates a Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) approach into the six-week Summer Enrichment Program.
Via courses developed by faculty members and chosen specifically for this cross-curricular program, participating students will learn to find a problem, identify the issue behind it, come up with a research question and propose a solution. The model will expose students to various issues and help them gain much-needed research experience, said Peña.
This summer’s program, which begins June 29 and continues through Aug. 7, will include an intensive writing course, research methods, critical history, environmental science, film studies, introduction to college, and speech and debate. At the conclusion of the program, students will take part in the second annual CSUF Youth Participatory Action Research Symposium. The top students will attend and present their research at the Oct. 1 National Association of Multicultural Education Conference in New Orleans.
This year, students will explore issues of inequality in Santa Ana. “We want to teach them the importance of becoming critical thinkers and giving back to their community,” Peña explained. Participants will stay in the University’s residence halls, spend time with alumni and go on Friday field trips to apply what they’re learning to daily life.
“We began our summer research institute last year and will continue to offer students this opportunity in order to provide them with the skills necessary to maintain their competitive advantage in the college application process,” said Peña.
In order to be eligible for Upward Bound, students need to fill specific low-income requirements and be potential first-generation college students. The CSUF program recruits students from Santa Ana, Saddleback, Century and Valley high schools, all from the Santa Ana Unified School District.