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  • Writer's pictureCollege 1st Program

UTRGV Upward Bound Students Empowered for College, Career, and Life Success

Updated: Feb 7

Thursday, October 17, 2023

UTRGV Upward Bound students collaborate on the TeamWRITER activity to try and win the writing competition. Photo by: Ramon Perez 

Written by: Frida Ibarra

For high school students, the path to college and future career success can sometimes seem like a distant, uncertain journey. However, across the Rio Grande Valley, a new initiative is inspiring and guiding students to succeed in their future. The College, Career, and Life Success CAMP, hosted by UTRGV Upward Bound Rio Grande City/ La Grulla in collaboration with the College 1st Program, is an initiative designed to empower students with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes they need to excel in higher education and beyond. From understanding the process for college readiness to mastering social-emotional learning and honing essential life success skills, this CAMP guides students for their future. But it's not just about lectures and textbooks; it's about hands-on experiences, teamwork, creativity, and fostering a strong sense of purpose.

The journey towards college readiness began by going through its various layers. First, students discovered that commitment and courage are essential in achieving their college and career aspirations. They delved into the importance of academic skills, encompassing effective study habits, seeking help when needed, and mastering time management. Students also get the opportunity to learn about the advantages of enrolling in rigorous courses such as Advanced Placement (AP), dual/concurrent enrollment programs and the significant impact that these choices have on their college applications. Equally crucial was the emphasis on research when selecting the right college, understanding the admission examination requirements, and exploring how to receive financial aid to pay for their college education. 

Noting that the process of becoming college-ready can be daunting at times, students are reminded of the advantages of earning a college degree. Among these include topics such as expansion of career options, job security, higher pay, and an overall healthier and happier life. According to Forbes, the earnings over a 40-year career between high school graduates and college graduates is a 75% difference, where high school graduates make $1.6 million compared to the $2.8 million earned by college graduates. In addition to higher earnings, there is also higher job security. Between February and May of 2020, 75% of bachelor’s degree holders remained in the workforce compared to only 52% of high school graduates, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. This can be because bachelor’s degree holders have more flexibility regarding when and where they can work. Numerous research studies have shown how a post-secondary degree benefits your life. 

“My day today was amazing. I learned about college and how to get ready for college. I think this opportunity is helping many students stay focused on becoming college-ready in the future.” Mathew Sifuentes, a UTRGV Upward Bound student, stated.

UTRGV Upward Bound students use their communication and collaboration skills by participating in a teamwork challenge. Photo by: Ramon Perez

While possessing the necessary skills to reach college is essential, students also discovered the profound influence of Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) on their lives and those around them.

According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), extensive research supports the notion that SEL enhances social skills in individuals of all ages, improves attitudes toward school, and reduces stress and depression among students. Remarkably, SEL leads to an average improvement of 11 percentile points in academic achievement.

After the onslaught of information provided to the students, they put this new knowledge and skills to the test. Through various hands-on activities, they demonstrated their ability to use their communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking skills.

UTRGV Upward Bound students gathered around to participate in a leadership challenge. Photo by: Ramon Perez

Students were tested through the first activity, called Team WRITER. In this activity, students were tasked to write a word as a group, with each team member holding a string connected to a plate with a single marker. The students further engaged their team-building skills through other activities, such as the frisbee and half-pipe challenges, where students had to make a golf ball travel through a network of half-pipes without falling to the ground.

“My day today was very fun, and I did so many fun activities; I was able to work on my teamwork skills and communication. After today, I feel more mentally and physically prepared for my next big step, college!” expressed Montserrat Martinez, a UTRGV Upward Bound student.

UTRGV Upward Bound students used their life success skills to compete for 1st place in a communication and team-building activity. 

Photo by: Ramon Perez

"I had so much fun with College 1st; we did exciting and eye-opening group activities... This was a one-of-a-kind teamwork experience, and it was super fun! I think this experience is helping many students stay motivated for college." UTRGV Upward Bound student Sabrina Santos stated. "Thank you, UTRGV Upward Bound, for guiding me to success," Santos concluded.

Throughout the CAMP, they became familiar with newfound knowledge about FAFSA, Apply Texas, and scholarship opportunities. They understood the importance of enrolling in college upon graduating high school. According to Forbes, students who enroll in college immediately after high school are 50% more likely to graduate with a bachelor’s degree within six years. On the other hand, students who take a leave of absence, switch academic majors, or transfer to another college are less likely to graduate.  Ultimately, the knowledge and guidance these students received will help them become prepared to navigate the complexities of the college transition process. But perhaps even more importantly, they carry a deeper understanding of themselves, their potential, and their place in the world.

For more information about UTRGV Upward Bound Rio Grande City/ La Grulla, please contact them at (956)-665-3617 or visit their website at College 1st is a joint initiative implemented since 2013 in partnership with visionary leaders from school districts, education service centers, and post-secondary institutions across the State of Texas to empower students for college, career, and life success. For more details about the program, please visit our website at or call us at 1-877-499-8544.


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