TRIO Upward Bound program seeks to end academic inequality for low-income high school students

The TRIO Upward Bound program has been active since the ‘60s when President Lyndon B. Johnson started his war on poverty.


Ursula Saadeh

Claudine Grunenwald Kirschner (left) leads a workshop for seniors who are preparing for college.

On February 17, the ongoing  “A Day in the Life of a College Student” program began with approximately 108 high school TRIO Upward students being partnered with a Baldwin Wallace University student.   

Each highschooler shadowed their partnered college student through their usual day of classes to observe what college courses can look like.   

The TRIO Upward Bound program, directed by Bonnie Munguia, aims to help students from low income households in the inner city and rural communities who could potentially become first generation college students.   

“The goal is to educate them [and] to help them understand how they can maneuver through high school and graduate from college,” Munguia said.  

The program provides students with after school tutoring and a Saturday academy where they can attend supplemental classes in math, science, composition and literature.   

“We just kind of help them out to get over those issues in school with the ultimate goal of going to college,” Munguia said.  

During the program, students can expect to take cultural and out-of-state college tours, so that they can feel comfortable going to places outside of the Cleveland area.   

The program also offers a summer academy for those who can’t attend the Saturday academy or want more academic help. It consists of five weeks on Baldwin Wallace campus with workshops and classes that faculty design.  

“They are gonna be in classes according to their next year in high school. We have classes for rising ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelvth graders,” Munguia said.  

Graduating high school seniors are invited to come to the BW campus during the summer and take one or two college classes paid by the college. If they pass with a C or higher, they can transfer those credits to any college they choose to attend.   

“It’s not a requirement that they attend BW,” Munguia said. “We just want them to attend and graduate college.”  

The program has been active since the 1960s, when President Lyndon B. Johnson began a series of initiatives aimed at reducing poverty. Upward Bound support first generation, low income students or adults who are trying to transition back into school.   

“We look for schools with low graduation rates, high poverty and a low number of parents with bachelor’s degrees,” Munguia said.  

Cuyahoga Community College and Case Western Reserve University participate in the program as well, but instead focus on students from different high schools.   

BW students are encouraged to participate during the summer as a mentor for different high school students in the Upward Bound program. Mentors live on campus in either Findley or Lang Hall.   

“[BW students] would stay in the residence hall with the [high school] students [and] be with them during the day,” Munguia said. “We pay BW students to travel with us on the college and cultural tours.”  

The program runs different activities and events throughout the year that allow BW students to be a role model for the high school students who are looking forward to a college education.  

“[The highschoolers] can connect with [the college students] and see what it’s like to go through college: the challenges, the success stories and … the language of college,” Munguia said.  

One of the many student stories is current BW admissions counselor, Martell Prayear, who joined the Upward Bound program as a ninth grader and attended the summer program.   

“[The program] showed me there are more opportunities in life to be successful, but you have to be willing to put the extra time and effort in,” Prayear said.