In a corner of the otherwise quiet Yakima Valley College campus, the sounds of students and their projects could be heard Wednesday morning. The chatter of teenagers mingled with the hum of 3D printing machines churning out their creations and the hum of fans working against the heatwave.
High school students participate in TRIO Upward Bound Program at YVC. The year-round tutoring and mentoring program provides a special opportunity for students during the summer. For six weeks, students live in YVC dorms and attend on-campus classes for a taste of the college experience.
The summer program has been online for two years due to the pandemic, Upward Bound deputy director Liliana Rutz said. But this year, it’s back to exposing students to all aspects of college life, from classes to the social scene to being away from home.
It reflects the overall goal of the program to bring students from underrepresented communities into higher education.
To the top
TRIO Upward Bound is a federal program for high school students from families considered low-income or without a college degree. It offers year-round academic support to participating students.
YVC has run the program in the Yakima Valley for decades. Students from Granger, Sunnyside, Toppenish and Wapato high schools are eligible, according to the YVC website.
About 110 students participate each year, Rutz said. Students can enter the program any year of high school, depending on available slots. Once students enter the program, they tend to stay for the rest of their high school career.
To enter, students complete an online application with their parents and must provide transcripts and test scores, Rutz said. Students meet with Upward Bound coordinators for an interview.
Generally, all eligible students arrive, although the program prioritizes students with greater need for the support it provides, Rutz said.
Upward Bound begins in the fall and culminates with the summer session. Throughout the year, students participate in weekly workshops and monthly rallies, Rutz said. Seniors also receive help completing college financial aid forms.
Rutz, who grew up in Toppenish, has been with the program for eight years. She has seen former students leave for schools across the country. Some return to teach in their community.
“It’s gratifying to be able to see someone from the Lower Valley, not knowing what they wanted to do, being able to accomplish all of this,” she said.
During the final week of the program, students will take a trip to NatureBridge, an environmental science learning center near Port Angeles. Students earn high school class credit for their participation in the summer program.
Back in session
On one of the last days of the summer session on campus, students were able to admire their work from the STEM course so far.
Onyx Borrego, a rising junior from Sunnyside High School, made “articulated” figures, which are made up of several short, connected parts that allow the figures to move. One looked like the Serpentine Onix from Pokémon.
“A little ironic,” she said with a smile.
She had never created anything like this before, but at the end of the day she had three. She learned the skills in Upward Bound’s STEM summer course.
STEM instructor Josh Schlegel said the 3D printing machine was “probably the biggest hit” with students. He tried to choose activities that combine multiple areas of study, like art and science, to keep kids engaged.
Although he has a variety of other jobs related to math and education, Schlegel said Upward Bound summer school is his favorite. He drove a six-hour family camping trip to Idaho just to be there.
“It’s definitely worth it,” he said. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
He enjoys working with highly motivated students.
For the past two summers, the summer portion was entirely online. Upward Bound coordinators handed out activity kits that students could do at home. But Schlegel said he was happy to be back in person.
Most of the students in the program come from families without college degrees, including Wapato High School’s rising junior Regina Cortes. Through Upward Bound, she learned how to navigate the college application process, she said.
“I feel much more prepared because they honestly took the time to talk to us about it and we did workshops throughout the year which I really enjoyed,” she said.
Beyond academics, the summer program gave her the opportunity to see what it’s like to live away from home. Normally, she feels quite dependent on her parents.
“I came here and I was like, well, I have to do a lot of things on my own,” she said. “And it helped me see that when I really go to college, I’ll be on my own.”
She has her eye on nursing programs.
Borrego said she enjoys getting to know students from other high schools in the area. During Spirit Week, she had fun laughing with her new friends on “Meme Day” when they dressed up as internet jokes.
She was able to come out of her shell somewhat this summer thanks to the Upward Bound program.
“I learned a lot about myself, a little more about who I am and who I can be,” she said.