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Upward Bound at WVU Tech awarded five-year grant

Upward Bound students play a game.

WVU Tech’s Upward Bound program was recently awarded a five-year grant for nearly $2 million to continue helping high school students in Southern West Virginia.

The federally funded TRIO program, which has been housed at WVU Tech for more than 50 years, works with high school students throughout the year to help them prepare for college and explore career opportunities.

The grant award will provide the program with $1,951,345 during its half-decade lifecycle, with an annual funding amount of $390,269. The funds will allow the program to serve 90 students from Fayette County schools. 

Jennifer Bunner, director of the Upward Bound program at Tech, said the grant allows the program to keep providing a crucial service to the region.

“This funding allows Tech to reach out and provide services and information to students and their families. It’s about understanding college opportunities, exploring career options and gaining exposure to enrichment opportunities that they might not otherwise have,” she said.

Current program students are two weeks into Upward Bound’s residential summer program at WVU Tech, where they live on campus, attend classes and gain a real-life collegiate experience. Students will visit several local businesses during a job shadowing day to meet business owners and agencies while developing ideas about their own careers. The group is participating in volunteer projects with local nonprofits and will travel to Baltimore at the end of the program for an out-of-state trip. Students also tour various colleges in West Virginia and beyond as part of the experience.

“It’s all about awareness,” said Bunner. “Many young people won’t consider some careers for themselves because they think college is out of reach, and this program shows them how to change that line of thinking.”

Scott Robertson, Assistant Dean of Students for TRIO Program at WVU Tech, said that the new grant award will help secure additional time for the program to have a lasting impact on students in the area.

“The money that comes to Tech through the Department of Education will allow the program to continue to change the trajectory of the lives of those who comes into contact with these services. It will provide them with incredible opportunities, and these students are getting a unique experience because they’re part of our history as one of the oldest Upward Bound programs in the entire country,” he said.

Bunner said that the program has big plans for the future and that the university’s new location in Beckley presents some additional opportunities for students in the coming years.

“We're actually closer to the most populated areas of the region we service, so it costs less for students to get here and for us to get to them. It's generally easier for them to access our campus and all the programming we have for them,” she said. “Plus we have a lot of community service organizations and businesses in the region to partner with as we plan and develop our programming.”

Find out more about the program at techupwardbound.wvutech.edu.