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Mentor program connects RF to inner-city students

October 12, 2006

Through the Upward Bound program, UW-River Falls faculty and students mentor, tutor and prepare inner-city students at Arlington High School in St. Paul for continuing their education at a college or university.

“Upward Bound is a trio program helping young people who live in the inner city succeed in college,” said Karwee Marshall, a junior and theatre major. “Everyone in the program goes to college.”

Every summer, students come to campus for a week-long session to attend classes and gain experience of college life, he said.

This summer’s program, a trip to Yellowstone National Park July 22-29, was a reward for participants who attended all their classes and successfully finished, Marshall said.

“It’s a reward for working hard,” he said. “They needed to have a good attitude and motivation throughout the summer.”

About 65 students and staff went on the road trip with a charter bus, beginning in River Falls and making their way to Wyoming. Along the way, the group stopped at many places, like Mount Rushmore, Sioux Falls, S.D., Devils Tower, Grand Teton National Park and Jackson Hole.

“It was like being on tour,” Marshall said. “By the time we all got back, we were all exhausted.”

Every night, the group stayed in hotels in various cities on the way to Yellowstone, said Mai Chang, a senior and social work major.

Marshall said it was his first time going on a trip like this one, similar to many of the high school students.

“I never thought in my life I would go to Yellowstone,” he said. “If I wasn’t involved with Upward Bound I would have never been to Yellowstone.”

Chang also said she had never been to the national park.

“It was such a great opportunity and a lifetime experience,” Chang said. “Overall, I loved it.”

The trip gave the students a different experience outside their normal environment, Marshall said.

It was a once-in-a-lifetime trip for some of the students from Arlington High School.

The program allows the less fortunate to have the potential to be put to their maximum, Chang said.

“I have been through a lot,” said Marshall, who grew up outside of Baltimore and moved to Brooklyn Park, Minn. “I had a lot of people put me in the right path; I can relate to everything they go through.”

The opportunity to travel to Yellowstone was a bonding experience for everyone involved, including the UW-RF and high school students and staff, Marshall said.

“There were more connections between the people with being on the road for a week,” he said.

Not only did the high school students get an experience of a lifetime, but Marshall said he especially enjoyed to hear them talk about the trip, excited and overwhelmed by all the sights along the way.

“It was a blast,” he said. “The most fascinating thing was the nature; it shows you that as an inner-city kid, anything is possible.”

The group hiked, kayaked and simply enjoyed the scenery around them, Marshall said.

“You are never too tough or too manly to think this stuff up close is beautiful,” he said. “It’s something to say ‘I am glad I came.’”

Upward Bound is a multicultural program that brings together different experiences and personalities, Marshall said. The program helps juniors and seniors at Arlington High School study for the SAT test, and fill out financial aid forms, Marshall said.

“It is a critical time for them,” he said. “When it comes to June, they are ready to graduate.”

For the graduates at Arlington High School, many of them are first-generation college students, so Upward Bound is there to help each of them get to college and achieve, Marshall said.

During a regular school year, juniors and seniors from the high school attend college visits to Minnesota and Wisconsin schools with staff members from the program, Chang said.

“It is a experience you just take that is outside your normal environment,” he said.  “With Upward Bound, there is no boundaries.”