This year marks the 50th anniversary of Upward Bound (UB), an MIT affiliated program that seeks to motivate under-resourced high school students to pursue a post-secondary education. Having partnered with MIT for the past 48 years, Wellesley actively participates in UB’s summer session, where students from the program are given the opportunity to live on campus for six weeks and experience the academic and social aspects of college life.
In the mid 1960s, UB developed from the MIT Science Day Camp in response to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” a program that was established to prepare underrepresented Boston high school boys for college. Around the same time, the ninth president of Wellesley College, President Ruth Adams, implemented a cross registration program with MIT and other institutions, enabling many Wellesley faculty and students to participate in UB’s initiatives. Since 1969, the program has acknowledged both institutions’ participation and become known as the MIT/Wellesley Upward Bound program.
Today, UB annually accepts 50 co-ed students from the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School into its yearlong program. As a federally sponsored program, UB has not been able to expand its cohort size due to budget cuts.
The program includes an academic and summer session. During the school year, the academic session is held on MIT’s campus where students receive homework supervision, academic advising and college and career advising. The program also organizes workshops and trips to museums, the aquarium and local corporations such as Genzyme. Volunteer tutors from MIT, Wellesley and other institutions also provide tutoring in specific subjects. The Director of UB Evette Layne encourages more Wellesley students to consider these volunteer roles, but is also mindful of how transportation to and from Cambridge can be a challenge for many.
UB also enables male students to participate in Young Men Leadership Development workshops throughout the academic year. These workshops are led by volunteers from the Men’s Fellowship of Myrtle Baptist Church in West Newton and are held three to four times a year. The volunteers serve as positive role models for the UB male students. The program is currently working on developing an analogous workshop for female students. Layne welcomes the participation of Wellesley students in this endeavor.
During the summer session, Wellesley hosts the program on campus and provides students with a preview of the college experience. Over the course of six weeks, UB students are given the opportunity to live in the residence halls and take classes taught by local high school teachers and Wellesley faculty. UB also hires and trains resident assistants. Students have access to the College’s facilities including the classrooms, laboratories, libraries and the Keohane Sports Center. Those taking STEM classes participate in Wellesley’s sponsored research efforts and present their findings during the summer research poster session. Additionally, the program also places an emphasis on how learning can take place outside of the classroom as students learn to manage time effectively by balancing their academic and social responsibilities.
Layne is confident that this summer experience will help better equip students for college, as it challenges them to adapt to a new setting.
“I believe that our students are well-prepared to leave the comfort zones of their homes to fully accept the challenges of the college experience because by the time they are freshmen in college they have participated in possibly four summer sessions on campus that have helped to build and strengthen their level of confidence to succeed,” Layne said.
Director of Events Management Lynn Payson oversees UB’s residential life at Wellesley. This past summer, 47 students participated in the program and lived in Beebe Hall. Students ate at the Bae Pao Lu Chow Dining Hall and enjoyed social programs including a talent show, prom, olympics and student-staff basketball. Payson acknowledges the importance of partnerships in planning the summer session.
“Our staff works very closely with the Upward Bound team to ensure that each student group that participates has a positive experience,” Payson said. “We work throughout the year planning for each summer and have are already started planning for next summer.”
To measure the success of the program, UB tracks high school retention and graduation rates, and college enrollment, retention and graduation rates. The UB Class of 2016 had a 100 percent acceptance rate into post secondary educational institutions. Overall, UB has a 80 percent college placement acceptance rate.
UB provides resources and services to students that enable them to thrive, leaving an important impression on the lives of many.
Kevin Yeung entered the UB program when he was a freshmen in high school in 2009. He participated in the program for five years and also worked as a mathematics teaching assistant and residential assistant during a summer session. Now a student at Syracuse University, Yeung uses many of the skills he has developed through the UB program.
“In hindsight, being in the Upward Bound program helped me become an advocate for change, a strong voice in a predominately white campus, and unlocked my potential of being a leader,” Yeung said.
He recalls how his UB resident assistant and workshop teacher taught him important lessons that no classroom setting could. Yeung explains that UB creates a family where students are supported and motivated to do their best.
“I’ve had the best moments with friends that I have for a lifetime, mother figures who will give me advice at any moment, and the unconditional support and love to push me back up when I fall down,” Yeung said. “Simply put, Upward Bound to me is one word, family.”
Although Layne has been the Director of the program since January 1992, her relationship with UB started in 1973 when she and her brother participated in the program. She explained that the UB program not only instilled important values that have remained with her today but also guided her to a career path where she was able to connect with youth in an empowering way.
“Many of the staff who were involved with Upward Bound during my years served as positive role models for me and they pushed me lovingly hard to reach my potential,” Layne said. “They were genuinely concerned about the education of disadvantaged youngsters and were dedicated to the task of developing talented individuals who would make a positive contribution to society.”
UB helped Layne submit college applications and counseled her through the decision making process. This experience led Layne back to UB as she made it her personal and professional goal to make UB her life’s work. She has since served many roles in the UB program and believes that without this program her life would have been very different.