PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University has been awarded three Upward Bound grants totaling $3.3 million to provide educational services to school districts serving low-income, first-generation college youth.

“This is the first time we’ve applied,” said Alton Jamison, WSU associate vice president for educational development. “It’s a highly competitive grant…WSU finished in the top 10 percent of first-time applicants. I’m thrilled we got all three.” 

WSU’s Pullman campus, WSU Spokane and WSU Tri-Cities will each receive $1.1 million over the five-year funding period. The schools will use the funding to help the different school districts within their coverage areas.  

The Pullman campus plans to work with the Okanogan and Omak school districts in Okanogan County. WSU Tri-Cities will partner with Mt. Adams and Yakima school districts, and White Swan and Eisenhower high schools in Yakima County and the Confederated Tribes of the Yakama Nation. WSU Spokane will work with Inchelium, Columbia, Mary Walker and Wellpinit high schools in Ferry and Stevens counties. Partners also include the Spokane Tribe and the Colville Confederated Tribes.

“I am very excited about this program that allows WSU to partner with the schools in the Upward Bound Project to provide the young people of Ferry and Stevens counties with educational services to enhance their opportunities for postsecondary education,” said Joan Menzies, WSU Spokane director of student services. 

Jamison and Yolanda Flores Niemann, WSU Tri-Cities associate professor of comparative American cultures and director of Hispanic Outreach, are also responsible for the Gear Up program, and two years ago they helped obtain funding for the Student Support Services program on the Pullman campus. The pair has spearheaded successful grants-writing efforts that now raise $2.8 million per year in additional funds to encourage first-generation and low-income students to stay in school, graduate and continue on to postsecondary education. With Gear Up, Student Support Services, Upward Bound and Latina/o Outreach, coupled with previously existing programs in Pullman and at the urban campuses, WSU is now reaching out to recruit and retain students with more comprehensive, strategic approaches than ever before, Niemann said. 

Some 80 percent of the students chosen have been referred by their teachers or counselors for having a high learning potential. The other 20 percent are at risk students who have medium to low grade point averages, have not completed core classes or who live on a reservation.

WSU Upward Bound projects will include WSU staff members who will work with local high school teachers to offer after school and occasional Saturday activities. Areas of emphasis will include English and literature, math, laboratory sciences, social sciences and foreign language. Additional activities during the school year will include career exploration activities, cultural field trips and visits to college campuses and workshops for parents and teachers.

All three programs will also offer a four-week summer residential academic program on the Pullman campus for all eligible participants. This summer program will offer academic courses, work-study components, tutoring and other activities related to the needs of the participants.

The Upward Bound grants will empower 150 eligible participants each year with the academic skills, information and motivation necessary for persistence and success in their secondary and postsecondary education.

WSU officials hope to see increased awareness and expectations by students, parents, teachers and community members that postsecondary education is a possibility for students from these underrepresented groups. They also hope to see stronger preparation for college-level work, increased high school graduation rates and higher college entry and completion rates.

“The success of these programs is almost totally dependant upon a strong partnership between WSU, local school districts and the communities they serve,” Jamison said.