East Stroudsburg University Upward Bound Pushes Students to Degree Completion

Upward Bound

Posted by: Elizabeth Richardson on November 18, 2021, No Comments

Upward Bound is a federal program that prepares underserved students in grades 9 through 12 for college success. Founded through the Educational Opportunity Act of 1964, the program has continued to have an important place on the East Stroudsburg University’s campus for over 50 years. Initially, Upward Bound was part of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty initiative, but since its inception at ESU in 1974, the University has put100 high school students through an intensive college experience that is as much about learning life lessons as it is about getting ready for higher education courses.

Two-thirds of an Upward Bound class must be students who would be the first in a low-income family to go to college. The other third can be either from an economically challenged background or potentially first-generation students. The program is free, but all the students must be motivated to succeed. “One hundred percent of our students are in rigorous academic coursework,” notes director Janine Hyde-Broderick, an Upward Bound graduate herself who has been with the program at ESU for 26 years. “We are pre-college, not high school.”

The ESU program recruits students from Monroe and Lehigh county high schools, bringing them in for classes every other Saturday during the academic year, and housing most of them on campus for six weeks each summer for a true college experience.

The program worked hard to find its way during the COVID-19 pandemic, when on-campus life ground to a halt and all Upward Bound experiences had to move online. The program is still being affected.

“We’re not addressing academic issues, it’s more social and emotional issues right now, especially at the end of the pandemic,” says Hyde-Broderick, known affectionately as “HB” to her students. “Students are really struggling across the board, and our population was hit really hard by COVID-19.”

Students quickly tired of Zoom, but regained some sense of the college experience when the program moved to an online program called Gather, where instructors and students could create their own ESU reality and move their avatars around virtual classrooms and the campus.

Hyde-Broderick would like to see more Upward Bound students enroll at ESU after they graduate — 10 are among the student body this year — but notes that private schools have “deeper pockets,” providing large scholarships and other incentives to attract these students.

John Santana and Indyah Singh both chose to enroll at ESU after graduating from Upward Bound in 2021 and 2019 respectively, and say the program changed their lives.

“Upward Bound helped me realize the importance of not only facing my challenges but also learning from them,” says Santana, who graduated in May from William Allen High School in Allentown, simultaneously using the program to earn an associate’s degree from Lehigh Carbon Community College.

“Like many first-gen students, we had no idea what we were doing or how to go about anything. Procrastination, time management, confidence — Upward Bound helped me not only become a better student but also a better person. It helped me develop my strengths, locate my weaknesses, seek help when needed, and maturely handle problems when they arose.”

“The program was not what I expected,” says Singh, a Pocono Mountain High School West graduate from Tobyhanna. “I kind of thought like ‘OK, we have classes on Saturdays and in the summer and that’s it.’ I didn’t expect for it to have such an impact on my life. The program was one of the best things to happen to me. It has made me the person I am today.”

“I enrolled at ESU before even graduating,” says Singh. “I knew if I went to ESU I would have a ‘family’ that would help me and motivate me throughout my time in college.”

Hyde-Broderick considers that sense of family a hallmark of Upward Bound at ESU.

“We had a visitor who met with one of our students and asked why the program works and if we have behavioral issues, and the student said, ‘We don’t have any real issues because if we do, one of us will step in and kind of say, ‘Yo, we don’t do that here.’ When asked if that was something we make them do, the student said, ‘Oh, no. The older kids just did that with us and so we do that with the younger students. It’s how we were raised.’”

“I just love that,” she says. “They see themselves as family.”

According to a 2020 federal report 58 percent of ESU Upward Bound students completed a college degree. “Statistically, less than 40 percent from similar backgrounds outside the program complete a degree,” Hyde-Broderick notes.

“Our students’ success can be directly linked to our amazing faculty and frankly, to the students themselves,” she says. “Our faculty and staff treat our high school students like the rising college students they expect them to become, so they totally raise the bar on them.”

“We provide remediation as needed, sure, but we challenge them at every possible turn academically. We expect them to act like well-mannered adults, and they live up to that expectation, so they hold the door for people, they thank the cafeteria staff, and they look out for each other at the bus stop.”

“Our program has a real strong history, and is really strongly alumni based,” Hyde-Broderick says. “It becomes a second family for the students.”

For more information about ESU’s Upward Bound program and information about applying or recommending a student, contact Hyde-Broderick by calling (570) 422-3476 or email jbroderick@esu.edu.