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High School Students ‘Upward Bound’ and SAT-Ready

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Damaris Neel won’t be applying for acceptance to colleges and universities until fall, and registering for the SAT is at least a month away. But Neel, a Fullerton High School senior, is already prepared.

She’s planning to be the first in her family to graduate from a four-year university, and the SAT Bootcamp offered by Upward Bound at Cal State Fullerton keeps that goal in focus.

Neel joined CSUF’s Upward Bound program as a junior. She’s one of 152 high schoolers who meet weekly for tutoring and attend frequent workshops in English, science, math and time management. This summer, she and 23 other juniors and seniors in the program participated in a new, two-week SAT-prep course offered by Upward Bound. They hope to follow in the footsteps of the Upward Bound graduates recently accepted to California State University, University of California and other universities.

Studying psychology at Cal State Fullerton is the top choice for Neel, who dreams of a career that mixes travel with philanthropy and helping children with special needs. The SAT is the first hurdle to getting accepted to the university, and the course reduced her stress about the test, she said.

“The SAT class was so helpful,” she said. “It simplified the techniques and it was very helpful to get more practice with the timed tests.”

Since 1992, Upward Bound has assisted students in ninth through 12th grade with academic tutoring, advising, financial planning, work-study options, career advisement and instruction in core curriculum. Summer courses are taught at CSUF and the students take a spring break college tour and occasionally travel to museums and theaters. The students live in CSUF campus housing during their final week of the six-week summer session.  

Two U.S. Department of Education grants fund the program that assists students selected from Santa Ana, Century, Valley, Saddleback, Fullerton Union and Savanna high schools. They must maintain a minimum of 2.5 GPA and meet federal income eligibility requirements to participate. There are 90 participants in the Santa Ana program and 62 students from Fullerton and Anaheim schools. Since 2012, 92 percent of the students have graduated from high school and gone on to college, said Victor Rojas, Upward Bound director.

The SAT Bootcamp, and a critical thinking and writing course were added this year, to improve the students’ writing skills in preparation for college, Rojas said.

“We want to develop well-rounded students who are going to excel in high school and beyond,” he said. “It’s crucial that we cultivate independent thinkers who are aware of their potential and learn to advocate for what they believe.

“SAT prep classes are not accessible to the majority of our students because of cost, so our thinking is: Why not give them that opportunity through our program?”