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Grant for Upward Bound program renewed for five years

| Gary Johnson

Photo caption: Upward Bound serves 74 students each year on the UW-Eau Claire campus to prepare them for college.

A $2 million federal grant has been renewed for five years to fund the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s Upward Bound program, which aims to prepare first-generation and low-income high school students for college.

The U.S. Department of Education grant will provide academic support, study groups, leadership workshops and financial assistance to ninth- to 11th-grade students at Eau Claire North and Memorial high schools. The grant funds 100% of UW-Eau Claire’s Upward Bound program.

Upward Bound is one of the federal TRIO programs designed to increase college access for economically disadvantaged students, says Olga Diaz, vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion and student affairs at UW-Eau Claire.

“In the Eau Claire community, this means a direct investment in supporting local high school students by providing precollege experiences,” Diaz says. “The UWEC team that does this work is passionate about creating opportunities that inspire young people to pursue higher education. We are honored to receive the funding renewal notice and look forward to continuing our work in Eau Claire schools.” 

Kimamo Wahome, UW-Eau Claire’s Upward Bound director, emphasizes the importance of access to higher education for many Eau Claire high school students and the critical role the program plays in the lives of those students.

“Our commitment is to ensuring not just equal opportunity, but equal access to equal opportunity,” Wahome says.

UW-Eau Claire’s Upward Bound program started in 1990 and has served about 700 students. Nationally, the program has been in existence since 1964 as part of the Great Society initiatives of President Lyndon Johnson’s administration.

Upward Bound serves 74 students each year on the UW-Eau Claire campus. UW-Eau Claire’s University Honors Program has more than 20 students who partner with Upward Bound students to mentor those most at risk.

Wahome says the Upward Bound program has maintained a high school graduation rate of more than 95% and a postsecondary education placement rate of more than 90%.

Several Upward Bound graduates choose to attend UW-Eau Claire or UW-Eau Claire – Barron County.

Two Eau Claire North High School valedictorians were in the Upward Bound program. Last year’s North valedictorian, Seng Moua, has a full scholarship valued at $250,000 at Stanford University, where she is majoring in biology/pre-medicine.

Another Upward Bound alumnus, Levavium “LJ” Wells II, is graduating from Eau Claire Memorial High School and has a full scholarship to play basketball at Northern Kentucky University. He will major in accounting.

UW-Eau Claire’s Upward Bound program won the Regents Diversity Award from the UW System Board of Regents in 2018 for fostering access and success for students who are members of historically underrepresented populations.