About 60 Tara High School students will spend their Saturdays at LSU this spring learning the ins and outs of what it takes to succeed in college.
The effort is being financed by a $1.25 million five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
Louisiana’s flagship public university is joining 11 other Louisiana colleges in participating in the 47-year-old Upward Bound program. In Baton Rouge, Southern University and Baton Rouge Community College also offer Upward Bound, working with 140 and 55 high school students respectively.
Stephanie Reber Givens, program director for LSU’s new Upward Bound program, said it serves students in low-income families who may need help entering and succeeding in college. The program will start working with students as early as ninth grade and continue through graduation and the summer after graduation, she said.
Givens said the students participating are free to go wherever they choose, not just LSU.
“We’re preparing them to go wherever they want,” Givens said.
The Saturday classes will focus on improving students’ academic skills, background knowledge, preparing for the ACT college placement test, knowledge of financial aid and expanding life experiences, she said. There will also be a six-week summer program that will include a number of enrichment activities such as trips to museums, she said.
Givens said that Tara High was selected because it didn’t have students in Upward Bound and because of the willingness to participate of former Principal Luanne Estess, who retired earlier this year.
Assistant Principal Brandon Levatino is now leading up the program for Tara.
“What makes this program attractive is that they are willing to invest in kids for the long term,” Levatino said. “They’re not just checking in on them once in a while.”
Tara plans to begin recruiting students to apply from all grades, but particularly from ninth grade, Levatino said.
“You’re committing to Saturdays. You’re going to summer programs. It’s not a light commitment,” he said.
Givens said she expects this will be the first time many of these teenagers have visited LSU.
“The major goal is to work with those students who don’t have that privileged knowledge of how to navigate a college campus,” Givens said.
Givens said Upward Bound is designed so that the learning has spillover effects beyond the student in the program.
“We also hope that they take that knowledge back to their home and their communities,” she said.
Copyright © 2011, Capital City Press LLC • 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70810 • All Rights Reserved