BY Amanda Sotelo
Coming from a single-parent household, Nayeli Espinoza has always been encouraged by her mom to take every opportunity that came her way.
Which is why Espinoza finds herself at Texas State Technical College’s Upward Bound summer program for the third year in a row.
Sitting in her History of Spanish class, the 16-year-old pays close attention to the teacher knowing everything she learns will help her during her junior year at Harlingen High School South.
“This is a fun way to learn. There is no other way to describe this program,” said Espinoza. “It has given me the opportunity to grow and it prepares me for the next school year. I always find I’m ahead because of everything I learn in the summer.”
Espinoza is one of 50 students enrolled in the Upward Bound summer program.
The Upward Bound Program is a four-year program geared toward high school students from Harlingen High School, Harlingen High School South, Dr. Abraham P. Cano Freshman Academy and San Benito High School.
The program focuses on supporting first-generation and low-income students in their preparation for college entrance by providing a variety of services to enhance academic and social skills and to develop motivation and determination to fulfill academic and personal goals.
“We want to plant the seed and not only help students finish high school, but also give them an easy transition to college,” said Neri Balli, TSTC state director for precollege programs. “Our job is to make sure these students are college ready.”
Throughout the school year and during the summer program, high school students receive services such as tutoring in English, math and science classes, Saturday classes at TSTC to develop skills need for college, college admissions and financial aid advising, academic and career counseling, personal enrichment workshops and field trips to colleges and universities and other educational events.
“Our Upward Students are very successful,” said Balli. “They are college ready by their senior year and nearly 50 percent of them stay at TSTC, while the rest go onto other colleges and universities.”
These are positive statistics for students like Espinoza whose dream is to go to college to become a dentist. She even plans on beginning her college career at TSTC with the help of Upward Bound.
Upward Bound offers recent high school graduates who completed their four-year commitment in the program, the opportunity to take two college courses at TSTC. Tuition and books are covered by the Upward Bound program.
TSTC Upward Bound Director Melinda Ortiz said this is a great benefit for her students and their families.
“Many of these students don’t get financial aid right out of high school,” she said. “So doing this for them gives them a head start, early access to college resources and gives them the tools they need to be successful down the line.”
As for Espinoza she plans on following in her older sister’s footsteps, who also completed the Upward Bound program and taking her two TSTC courses.
“It’s like my mom always tells me,” she added. “’Having little money, is no limitation.”’