The BMCC Upward Bound program has received a five-year, $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to build on its work making college a reality for low-income high school students and those from families in which neither parent has earned a bachelor’s degree.
The program will continue working with two Manhattan high schools — Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis High School for International Careers and Murray Bergtraum High School — and will add Landmark High School and the Leadership and Public Service High School. It will serve about 66 students annually, ages 13 through 19.
“In addition to scaling up the program, the grant will enable us to use more technology in the classroom,” says Antonette McKain, who led the BMCC Upward Bound program for 17 years and recently assumed the role of Director of Evening, Weekend and Off-Site Programs at BMCC. “By accessing online resources, students will research and explore career fields and academic areas they might not have been aware of. We will also do more targeted outreach as we meet the technology needs of this generation of students who communicate through Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and other platforms.”
Upward Bound students work closely with instructors who are high school teachers or guidance counselors. In small groups after school, they prepare for New York State Regents examinations and bolster their skills in algebra, physics, biology, earth science, English and other subjects.
A ‘family vibe’
“Upward Bound is a very close-knit program,” says Janice Zummo, BMCC Assistant Dean for Academic Support Services who oversees the program. “The students come together as a small group every day after school for up to four years, and they become an important resource and support for each other.”
Zummo also says the program has evolved to have a strong alumni network.
Keiran Miller, who attended Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis High School for International Careers, was part of BMCC’s Upward Bound program from 2008 through 2011. He attended Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania on a Posse Foundation Scholarship and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing in Spring 2015.
“I started a spoken-word poetry group on campus and served on editorial boards,” Miller says. “I also tried to help other students by doing college access and college success work — and I made all those connections because of my experience with Upward Bound.”
Looking back on his experience with the BMCC Upward Bound program, he says, “People are willing to go the extra mile for you and give you the tools and resources you need, but you have to have confidence and faith in yourself, too.”
Miller and his fellow Upward Bound members took college tours together and attended cultural events such as a performance of Cirque du Soleil. “There was always some kind of meal component. Upward Bound has a family vibe,” he says.
“One of the staples of Upward Bound was Antonette McKain’s ‘tough love’ approach,” Miller adds. “She treated us like adults. We stumbled and made mistakes but in our own ways, we all learned responsibility, time management and the importance of following up with people — if someone connects you to someone or some opportunity, it’s important to keep that person in the loop.”
In Fall 2018, Miller will start work on his master’s degree. In the year prior to that, he will work as a counselor at Anatolia College in Thessaloniki, Greece, guiding students as they consider college in the United States.
Guiding students into college is central to the mission of Upward Bound. “We take the students on college tours, both interstate and intrastate, so they begin to think critically about their options,” says McKain. “We help them grapple with questions such as, ‘What size school will I feel comfortable in? Do I want an urban or suburban setting? Do I want to be in a homogenous school, or one that is more diverse? Do I want to live on campus or off?'”
Celebrating the end of a dynamic year
On June 17 in Theatre 2 at 199 Chambers Street, the BMCC Upward Bound program held its End-of-Year Celebration. Special guest speakers include Key Note speaker Maggie Howard and BMCC’s Dean Janice Zummo. A surprise tribute was made in honor of the program’s exiting Director, Antonette McKain. “She didn’t even know it was coming,” says Zummo. “The alumni had prepared a video in which they spoke about their experience of working with Antonette, and others spoke in person. They also gave her a beautiful engraved vase.”
Awards were distributed by the following Upward Bound workshop leaders: Jennifer Springer, Composition and Literature; Celeste Farmer, Algebra and Geometry; Subhra Goswami, Living Environment/Earth Science; Dominique Ceniceros, Trigometry/Pre-Calculus; Linda Barber, SAT/ACT Math; Marjorie Antoine and Yolanda Simancas, Road to College, and Serena Fong, Senior Transition to College.
The event celebrated Upward Bound seniors heading off to college: Angelica Diaz, Marist College; Valentino Gordon, Alfred University; Junior Holguin, Ithaca College; Shuzel Lide, University at Buffalo; Rashel Loaiza-Duarte, SUNY Brockport; Allyssa Martinez, Queens College, CUNY; Maireni Paulino, Ithaca College; Jarleny Pichardo, Skidmore College; Caitlyn Santander, SUNY Brockport; Da’Sandra Stephens, Marist College, Susanie Seecharan, SUNY Albany and Michelle Sun, Hamilton College.
The Upward Bound Project is an externally funded program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education under the category of Federal TRIO programs in partnership with Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY).