TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

July 30, 2012

Union College’s Upward Bound program too important to let go


The Times-Tribune

CORBIN — I was saddened to hear that this year may be the last for the Union College Upward Bound Program. I worked with the program for three summers as Tutor Counselor and one summer as Academic Liaison. My experience impressed upon me that anyone who was fortunate enough to be involved with the program was rewarded in ways beyond contemplation. As a counselor, I started with only a pecuniary interest, but after my first week of working with the program participants, I was fully invested in the success of the program, and ultimately the kids.

The educational value of the program should not be understated; during the summer, students received extensive enrichment training to better prepare them for the classes they would be taking in the next school year. Skilled, passionate educators like Michael Hensley, Pamela Baker, and Dr. Jim Garrett (to name only a few), devoted five weeks each summer in order to instruct and prepare students for new material. Students completed home work, attended daily study halls — some used trigonometry to calculate the height of a buildings on campus —  others wrote reflective pieces sharing their personal experiences, and others experimented in the chemistry lab.

Upper level students completed college credit courses, and could earn nearly an entire semester of college credit before starting as freshmen in college.

A busy five weeks, and that includes only the summer component. The program also had an academic year component that offered tutoring in key subject areas, as well as enrichment activities designed to prepare students for college.

In a state with scarce educational funding and resources, every added minute of instruction is a boon for the pupil. This boon is reflected in the test scores of the individual school district, the community the district supports and ultimately the state at large. In particular, the Southeastern Kentucky region stands to gain by the continuation of the Upward Bound Program at Union College.

I reflect, often and fondly, of my time with the Upward Bound program. I was quite fortunate to be involved with such passionate educators and administrators, with driven and motivated counselors, and with the gifted, unique and superb participants of the program. My time at Union College would not have been the same without my involvement in the program. I join the sentiment of the members of the community seeking review of the grant decision.

Brian Strunk, Louisville