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Ohio State receives nearly $4.7 million in Upward Bound funds

Grants support work in schools in Columbus, Mansfield and Wooster

In his years of research on academic achievement in minority students, James L. Moore III, vice provost for diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer and nationally recognized distinguished professor of urban education at The Ohio State University, found there are five factors that influence a student’s academic success: interest, preparation, experiences, connections and opportunities.

Upward Bound encourages all five, he said.

James L. Moore III“This program is a gem,” Moore said. “This is the kind of work that the Office of Diversity and Inclusion does and has done for over 50 years. It gives us a chance to have lasting impact – when you educate a generation of students, they influence the next generation.”

Upward Bound was born out of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 as a result of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty agenda. Through allocated grant funds from the U.S. Department of Education, high school students receive academic support, develop socialization and communication skills, and begin planning futures that may have seemed otherwise impossible. 

This year, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion was awarded three grants – totaling nearly $4.7 million over five years – from the U.S. Department of Education to reach high school students in different schools in Columbus, Wooster and Mansfield. “It is advantageous for institutions like Ohio State, with this storied land-grant mission to reach out to individuals who may not have had the same opportunities,” Moore said.

Citing economic struggles faced by communities in Columbus, Wooster and Mansfield, he went on: “One of the hallmarks of Ohio State is working with working-class and low-income communities in urban and rural settings. I know that is one of the main thrusts of the land-grant university. [Upward Bound] gives us a chance to bridge gaps for young people.”

The grants cover tutoring, weekend coursework and seminars that help high school students prepare for the rigors of college-level academics. Follow-up tracking allows Upward Bound program administrators to ensure that student successes can be replicated.

In addition to academic enrichment, participants develop what Moore calls “power skills,” social competencies that help them navigate social situations. Throughout the year, Upward Bound students are exposed to cultural events, community service opportunities and recreational activities to round out their experience. These kinds of experiences have positive effects on students’ confidence and commitment to the program, Moore said, which is crucial to a student’s success.

“Competence produces confidence,” Moore said. Some students have the skill but they don’t have the will, and vice versa. Building skill and will are two major facets of Upward Bound.”

To ensure student success, Upward Bound works closely with students’ families as well. In some of the communities within Columbus, Wooster and Mansfield, higher education is not seen as a next step among students and families because of the cost of college or the need to make money to assist with family living expenses. Moore notes that many students in the targeted schools come from dire economic household situations and will, in most cases, be the first in their families to obtain a college degree.

Upward Bound is, in part, about exposing students to mentors and role models from the area who have similar backgrounds or who can relate to them by sharing the different possibilities available through a college education. As Moore points out, many people in the targeted areas come from families that have done the same work for generations. Upward Bound highlights options that students may not have considered, not because of a lack of interest, but a lack of awareness.

“There are over 12,000 jobs according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics,” Moore said. “Most people are not familiar with all of them, and young people foreclose on education and career opportunities when they’ve never been exposed to them.”

Upward Bound is a foundational program at Ohio State, Moore said, and one he has proudly worked on as the principal investigator for nearly 15 years. Receiving an Upward Bound grant is highly coveted and never guaranteed, which makes each award that much more meaningful.

“It’s some of the most honorable work that I am part of,” Moore said. “It’s work that I would do for free.”

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