Harnett students Upward Bound with CCCC grant program
LILLINGTON - A $1.2 million, five-year Upward Bound Math and Science grant to Central Carolina Community College will result in better academic achievement and greater opportunities for Harnett County Schools students, said Dr. Brian Merritt, CCCC dean of Student Learning.
"The ultimate goal of UBMS is to provide intensive experiences in mathematics and science that empower students to graduate from high school and transition into college enrollment and careers in the fields of math and science," he said.
The college recently received the grant from the TRIO Program of the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Postsecondary Education. With the grant, the college, school district and schools will work with students at five target locations: Harnett Central, Overhills, Triton and West Harnett high schools, and STAR Academy.
The targeted population is low-income students who would be the first in their families to attend college, as well as other students at high risk of academic failure and students interested in pursing careers in math and science.
"We definitely want to provide students who may not be thinking of attending college an opportunity to experience the college environment," said Harnett Schools Superintendent Thomas Frye. "It might prompt them to realize that college is an attainable goal. I'm also very excited about the science and mathematics emphasis. I view that as a plus."
CCCC's motto for its Upward Bound program is also 4 "Cs": Courage, Commitment, College and Career, the qualities and focus students must have or develop for success, said Dr. Gerri Williams, CCCC's TRIO program director.
The college will provide after-school math and science tutoring; Saturday tutoring, skill-building and enrichment experiences; and a six-week summer program that will take the students to the campus of North Carolina Central University for in-depth training and enrichment experiences.
In addition to math and science, the students will receive tutoring in their other high school courses.
"They can't pursue math and science if they can't graduate from high school," Williams said. "They must have writing skills, humanities, languages, etc. They have to progress."
She said the objective is for the students to complete high school and earn a postsecondary degree within six years.
The grant program will also provide a critical educational foundation for future careers in the county's burgeoning medical industry, Frye said.
"There's a lot going on in Harnett with the medical corridor along Highway 421," he said. "Having a medical industry, which is grounded in science, is a big plus for the county. I see a strong connection between the Upward Bound program with its emphasis on math and science, and what is happening in the county. The timing is absolutely perfect."
The program will serve 60 students each year. The college, school district, and schools will work together to select the students to participate based on applications submitted. Each must also have a letter of recommendation from a guidance counselor and teacher. Williams will then personally interview each student.
Clem Medley, a CCCC trustee, member of the Harnett County Business/Education Partnership, and a Harnett employer, said the grant could provide life-altering opportunities to students.
"I am very excited about the potential that the grant has to positively impact the lives of our students and the very positive influence that it will have on our business community," he said. "Economic growth and prosperity is closely tied to a well-educated and properly trained work force. This grant offers an important opportunity for the college to expand its on-going partnership with the Harnett County school system as they work together to better serve our students and thereby improve the lives, not only of the students, but also for all Harnett County citizens."
Students will find out about the program through social media, fliers at their schools and mailed to their homes, and direct discussion of the program with students at their schools. Williams will visit middle schools in the spring to talk to eighth graders about applying for the program. They will also learn about it during the annual visit that all Harnett County eighth graders make to the college's Harnett County Campus.
"The goal for every school is to get its students ready for college and careers," said Allison Castle, director of 9-12 Instruction for Harnett County Schools. "This program is a great way to get the students an additional layer of support."
As the students progress through the program, they may concurrently enroll in free college courses during the school year and summer months. Eligible participants' college admissions fees may be paid by UBMS.
Williams said that, when she was in high school, she received her first encouragement and assistance to prepare for and attend college through an Upward Bound program. She went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education, a Master of Arts in Adult and Higher Education, and a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership. She came to CCCC after serving as the TRIO director at UNC-Chapel Hill, overseeing a program that served students in Durham, Chatham, Lee, and Orange counties.
"The day and time we're living in, it's almost impossible to get a good job without post-secondary education," Williams said. "I'm impressed and honored that CCCC is taking this on to work with Harnett students to be the first in their families to go on. We want them to get a good education to be productive citizens 10 and 20 and more years from now."
Upward Bound programs started in the 1960s with President Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty, Williams said. This is the second Upward Bound grant that the college has received. It was recently awarded a $1.2 million, five-year Veterans Upward Bound grant to assist veterans in returning to school. Both are part of the Department of Education's TRIO grants program.
For more information about the Upward Bound Math and Science program, students at Harnett Central, Overhills, Triton and West Harnett high schools and STAR Academy should contact their guidance counselors or call the CCCC Upward Bound Math and Science program office at 919-718-7463.
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