Upward Bound Camps at SMU Help First-Generation Students Chart a Course for College

Upward Bound students visit Southern Methodist UniversityStudents from high schools throughout the Dallas area are staying on the SMU campus to get a better idea of what it is like to be a college student. The Upward Bound and Upward Bound Math Science summer residential camps sponsored by College Access, a program in the Simmons School of Education and Human Development, help low-income, first-generation students prepare for college.

The camps offer students helpful classes on everything from English, chemistry, calculus and sign language to college writing, filling out admissions forms and understanding the financial aid process. It also gives the campers a taste of being on a college campus, eating in the dining halls and living in the dorm.

Upward Bound students in SMU dorm room.Forty-four students from partner high schools in Dallas ISD, Lancaster ISD, Duncanville ISD, and Garland ISD are attending the camps. Dr. LaChelle Cunningham, College Access Director, says the camps and the program are life-changing for the participants. “These students have the aptitude and desire to continue learning. They also know a college degree can lead to a better future not only for them but for their families. We are pleased that, through these camps, we help them navigate what is most often unchartered territory for them and their parents.”

Adriana Reyes, a rising 12th grader at Skyline High School says the information they are learning at the camp is already making an impact. “I am more confident about successfully getting into college and what steps I need to take. I am a first-generation student, so I am taking in everything to help me be successful and succeed.”

Phylisha Smith, SMU campus instructor.One of those providing that information is Phylisha Smith, a camp alum, who came back to work for College Access after graduating college. She is now a camp class instructor.  “I teach them how to fill out an admissions application, apply for financial assistance, and research their first college choice. I know how much this camp helped me and how important it is to help them understand the process.”

The campers are enjoying making new friends with students from other area schools. They say one of the best things about the camp is that they all have the same goal – to graduate from college.

Desmond Minger, a rising 12th grader from Kimball High School, says, “I have social anxiety and really didn’t talk much. I have come out of my shell here and have learned so much from communicating with the other students. My American Sign Language class has really taught me a lot about communicating with others and that it doesn’t always have to be verbal. I now have the confidence that I can attend college”

Simmons Dean, Dr. Stephanie Knight, says “I am so proud of the good work being done through College Access. It is just another way we fulfill SMU’s commitment to community outreach. The camp runs through July and is funded by an Upward Bound grant from the United States Department of Education.

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