Organizers and participants in Rend Lake College’s Upward Bound program hope to make a tradition of helping the Benton Ministerial Alliance provide food and toys to families in need.
According to Nicki Bowlin, Student Advisor/Coordinator for Upward Bound, students in this college preparatory program collected food and toys, then helped package the items at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Benton and delivered them to needy families throughout the city during the weekend before Christmas. This is the second year in which Upward Bound students have helped make the holiday season a little brighter for those in need.
"It is a wonderful event that provides a positive impact on the community," said Bowlin. Upward Bound participants from Zeigler-Royalton, Benton and Sesser-Valier high schools took part in the event.
Upward Bound participant Sara Van of Mulkeytown, a freshman at Sesser-Valier High School, said the first stop during the December 20 delivery was the home of an elderly woman who told the group it was her birthday. After dropping off her food, the group continued to deliver to other families until coming across another box with the woman’s name on it.
According to Upward Bound Tutor Malissa Montoya of Benton, the group returned to the woman’s home, delivered the package and sang "Happy Birthday" to her. Overcome with emotion, she told the group that no one had sung for her in a long time.
"I really hope we get the chance to do this again and feel the same joy we experienced that day," said Van.
Upward Bound is a college preparatory program designed to provide academic support, personal and career counseling and cultural enrichment to its participants. Students take part in activities from ACT preparation to study skills, Bowlin said. The Upward Bound program has been funded by the U.S. Department of Education with $234,000 per year over four years.
Any student who has completed eighth grade but has not entered 12th grade and is enrolled or is planning to enroll in Benton, Hamilton County Senior, Sesser-Valier, Zeigler-Royalton or Mt. Vernon high schools is eligible for this federally funded program. Students qualify for enrollment by demonstrating the academic potential and desire to complete a college degree, exhibiting enthusiasm toward learning, meeting income guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Education and being a potential first-generation college student (neither parent having a bachelor’s degree).
Upward Bound provides academic instruction in various college-prep classes, individual tutoring, career counseling, ACT/SAT preparation classes and financial aid information. Students also participate in cultural activities such as field trips to museums, zoos and natural parks, and special events, including concerts, plays and sporting events.
Students commit their time, energy and effort as part of the program. A guideline for most students is approximately two hours per week throughout the school year and six weeks during the summer.
During the school year, Upward Bound students will participate in weekly tutorial sessions at the student’s high school with Upward Bound staff members. One Saturday per month, the students participate in "Saturday College" at RLC for career planning, assessment testing and enrichment classes.
The summer portion is the most intensive aspect of the Upward Bound year. It includes five weeks of classes at RLC and Friday sessions reserved for field trips related to career, educational and college awareness.
All of these activities and services are provided at no cost to the student.