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Empowering Tomorrow's Leaders: UTRGV Upward Bound's Path to College and Career Success

Updated: Sep 18

UTRGV Upward Bound collaborating on the TeamWRITER activity. 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, in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley, a remarkable opportunity has been changing that perception for countless young minds. The College, Career, and Life Success CAMP, hosted by UTRGV Upward Bound in collaboration with the College 1st Program, is a dynamic program 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 skills, this CAMP serves as a guide for the 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. Among these layers, students discovered the vital role of a positive attitude in achieving their aspirations. They delved into the importance of academic skills, which encompassed effective study habits, seeking help when needed, and mastering time management. Furthermore, students learned about the advantages of enrolling in rigorous courses such as Advanced Placement (AP) and dual 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, deciphering admission examination requirements, and exploring avenues for financial aid.

Noting that the process of becoming college ready can be daunting at times, students were reminded of the advantages of earning a college degree. Among these included were the expansion of career options, job security, higher pay, and an overall healthier and happier 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 participating in the halfpipe 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. Extensive research supports the notion that SEL enhances social skills in individuals of all ages, it improves attitudes towards 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 a variety of hands-on activities they demonstrated their ability to use their collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking skills.

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

Students were tested through the first activity called TeamWRITER. In this activity, students were tasked to use their communication and collaboration skills to write a word as a group with each team member holding a string that connected to a plate that held a single marker. The students further engaged their team building skills through other activities such as the frisbee challenge and the half pipe challenge where students had to make a golf ball travel through a network of halfpipes 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 participating in the halfpipe challenge. Photo by: Ramon Perez

Throughout the CAMP, they became armed with newfound knowledge about FAFSA, Apply Texas, and scholarship opportunities. In the end, these students were better equipped to navigate the complexities of college applications and financing. But perhaps even more importantly, they carry with them a deeper understanding of themselves, their potential, and their place in the world.

"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 a lot of students stay motivated for college." UTRGV Upward Bound student Sabrina Santos stated. "Thank you, UTRGV Upward Bound, for guiding me to success," Santos concluded.

*All CAMPs can be customized to include Reading and Writing (ELA), Math, Science and Social Studies State Test Standards at the Elementary, Middle School and High School Level.

For more information about UTRGV UPward Bound, please call them at (956)-665-3617 or visit their website at College 1st is a joint initiative implemented 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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