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Onward and Upward

Upward Bound scholarship awardee Keiran Miller
Upward Bound scholarship awardee Keiran Miller
April 5, 2011

When Keiran Miller was in the 9th grade, “back when I was quiet and shy,” he says, “I got this note that said, ‘Come to the library to hear about this program’.”

The program, it turns out, was Upward Bound—which provides academic support, counseling, cultural enrichment and other services to promising high school students from low-income families, or homes in which neither parent holds a bachelor’s degree.

“They tutored us and led activities after school, on breaks or on weekends,” says Miller. “At first I didn’t think I needed help with school, but then I did take advantage of the tutoring in subjects like Earth Science, Chemistry, and ACT Prep. We also went to Broadway plays like The Wizard of Oz; we saw Cirque du Soleil, visited the African Burial Ground in Lower Manhattan—we even walked over the Brooklyn Bridge.”

BMCC supports Upward Bound

Through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, BMCC supports Upward Bound, providing services to seven local high schools, including Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis High School in midtown Manhattan, which Miller attends.

He credits the Upward Bound staff at BMCC—especially Director Antonette McKain—with supporting not just his academic performance, but helping him develop useful workforce and team-building skills.

These came in handy when he competed with 3,000 other students, citywide, for the 4-year Posse Foundation Scholarship he eventually won—a process involving one-on-one interviews as well as group activities.

“In the first round, there were 80 to 100 kids in this big room,” said Miller. “We had our names on the back and front of our shirts, and were given activities to do in groups, like build the tallest tower out of straws, or create an infomercial on a serious topic.”

While the students completed their activities, administrators from participating colleges circulated throughout the room.

“They would notice things like, who’s interacting; who’s talking over other people,” said Miller, adding that in one-on-one and group interviews, the applicants were asked more complex questions. “They want to know, ‘What are you about?’, ‘What are your dreams?’”

Throughout the scholarship application process, BMCC’s Upward Bound staff continued their support of the young people they’d already mentored and guided for several years.

“They told us, ‘Don’t shut down, try to show your leadership, stay engaged’,” Miller said. Fourteen colleges partner with the Posse Foundation, and Miller considers himself lucky to be among the 140 students, citywide—out of 3,000—who will enter one of those schools, this fall.

The Posse Foundation

Since 1989, The Posse Foundation has mentored over 3,500 public high school students—many of whom might have been overlooked by traditional college recruiters—to build the skills and mind set that ensure a successful college career.

Once enrolled, the students benefit from campus services, as well as from the continued support from their peer cohort or “posse”—other Posse Foundation Scholars on campus. Overall, they graduate at an impressive 90% rate.

These Posse Scholars receive 4-year, full-tuition leadership scholarships from the Foundation's partner institutions all over the United States—New York, Atlanta, Boston, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C. Upward Bound students attend college tours to visit the various campuses, and select a college that speaks to their goals and strengths.

Miller chose Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, because the school’s English department offers a creative writing track, within its bachelor’s degree program.

“I want to either be a children’s book writer, start my own greeting card company, or have a writing- or poetry-based radio show,” says Miller, who grew up in Flatbush, Brooklyn, lives now in the borough’s East New York neighborhood, and is admittedly, a little nervous—“I’m a city kid”—about moving to rural Pennsylvania to start college this fall.

But he wouldn’t have it any other way. “I really want to thank everyone at BMCC in the Upward Bound program,” he said, “for helping me reach this point in my life.”

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STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Through BMCC’s Upward Bound program, Keiran Miller received a Posse Foundation Scholarship to Franklin & Marshall College
  • Miller has been in BMCC’s Upward Bound program since 9th grade
  • Of 3,000 applicants—all NYC high school seniors—140, including Miller, received the coveted 4-year Posse scholarship

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