News & Events

Waubonsee Program Helps East High Students Succeed

group of students stand under a theater marquee
Waubonsee Community College’s Upward Bound program offers a variety of resources and opportunities to East Aurora High School students, including cultural outings. Seen outside Chicago’s Goodman Theatre are (l to r): Odalys Ibarra, Melissa Magaña, Izac Gomez, Diamand Barnes and Erika Farias-Diaz.

Data and statistics are always just one part of a story, but they can certainly be an impressive part. Such is the case for Waubonsee Community College’s Upward Bound program. This year, 100 percent of its seniors graduated from East Aurora High School, with all 100 percent being accepted into college. For these and other accomplishments, Waubonsee is proud to recognize Upward Bound as part of the college’s “Student Success: Institutional Stories” program.

Upward Bound is one of eight federal TRIO programs funded by a U.S. Department of Education grant and is designed to help high school students complete both their secondary and post-secondary education.

In order to be eligible, high school students must come from limited-income households and/or be potential first-generation college students. Waubonsee’s program serves 55 East Aurora High School students each year, with students participating all four years of high school.

“The Waubonsee Upward Bound program is unique in that we are based at the high school,” said Robert Cook, TRIO/Upward Bound Manager. “This enables us to serve our students during the school day and after school, five days per week. We have a good relationship with the administration, faculty and counselors at East Aurora High School and work collaboratively for the success of our students.”

A lot of collaboration and work goes into the 100 percent high school graduation and college acceptance rates the program achieved this year. Students spent almost 1,800 hours in after-school tutoring sessions and another 715 hours in educational and life skills workshops.

The almost 400 hours staff members spent helping students and their parents with college and financial aid applications paid off not only in the students’ acceptance rate but also in the $1.6 million worth of financial aid and scholarships they earned.

Going to college is not just getting in, however; it also involves deciding where you want to attend. Upward Bound helps students with that aspect by hosting college visits to schools near and far. This past academic year saw the students visiting 16 colleges in Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin, along with five colleges in Texas during a spring break trip.

“The college visits are important because they demystify the college admissions process,” Cook said. “Students gain a better understanding of what they’re looking for in a college and what school is best for them. Often, our students share the knowledge they’ve gained at Upward Bound with their peers and siblings, so our work extends far beyond our 55 students.”

Colleges chosen by this year’s graduating class include Brown University, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, University of Iowa and Waubonsee Community College. Although the students have graduated, Upward Bound will stay in contact with them, tracking their progress over the next six years.

While trips to different colleges broaden the students’ educational horizons, cultural trips and activities broaden their worldviews. Students have enjoyed music and theater performances at the Paramount Theatre and Goodman Theatre, taken in a White Sox baseball game, learned from the exhibits at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, and given their time to Feed My Starving Children, among others.

Just as important as all the activities, resources and opportunities the program provides are the connections it forms between the students. As one student said, “My favorite part about Upward Bound is that we are like our own little family.”

Everyone is very much looking forward to hearing the many success stories that will inevitably be shared at future reunions.