Moriah Kinney, 15, a sophomore at Harvard High School, said both of her parents went to college, but she was nervous that her future might not end up that way.
But through the Upward Bound program, a partnership between McHenry County College and Harvard School District 50 that prepares high school students for a college education through team-building exercises and a diverse set of courses, she found the opportunity to ready herself for the next phase of her life.
“Anything that can lead me in the right direction I was ready to do,” Kinney said.
A special summer program is optional for students, but gives them a chance to learn numerous subjects, including biology, creative writing, web design, foreign language, culinary skills, farming, math and robotics. Students receive a $60-a-month stipend to attend the optional summer program to help offset costs.
But the experience isn’t limited to the classroom. Students get the chance to take trips to the Field Museum, the Strawdog Theatre and different state universities.
Students also go through team- building exercises at the Loyola University Retreat and Ecology Center.
Aaliyah Torres, 17, a senior at Harvard High School, said she did not want to waste her summer lying in bed, and the program was a great opportunity to get to see what college classes are like, get the feel for college life and get to interact with other students she might not have spoken to at school.
“I would hope that other schools have [programs] like it,” Torres said. “It helps you to interact with others, it shows your true colors, and it gives you a real look of the outside world.”
Javier Melesio, 16, a Harvard High School junior, said it was great to bond with the other students, who became like a family.
“I just hope it will all be worth it in the end,” Melesio said.
The program is funded through a five-year, $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to provide support and academic preparation to make students college-ready.
Starting in the fall, Upward Bound Director Rene Govea said 60 students will have access to free tutoring, weekly workshops on career exploration and other lessons.
Students also will have group meetings after school, focusing on leadership skills, time management and other preparations to ensure student success.