There’s a hallway at Evergreen High School lined with college pennants from across the nation. Posters remind visitors of deadlines for tests and scholarship applications. A corkboard tells students, “The sky is your limit.”
This is the high school’s College Prep Center, and at the heart of it is the Upward Bound program, a new addition to Clark County’s offerings for college-bound teenagers. The office is sponsored by the educational arm of the League of United Latin American Citizens, the LULAC National Education Service Center.
Upward Bound targets students who will be first-generation college students if they pursue higher education. Here, students learn how to apply for financial aid, explore careers, access general advising, take cultural field trips and visits college campuses. In an otherwise nearly empty school Monday — it was a day off for the rest of the campus — five students huddled around their laptops, plugging community service hours and work experience into their résumés.
The program is working to bridge the gap for students who may not know how to start looking toward college, and who may not be able to ask their parents for help navigating the process.
“What does it mean to not have a parent that expects you to go to college but doesn’t know how to get you there?” program director Maria Cabrera said. “We are providing the experiences parents and teachers don’t have the time to offer to kids.”
The program is also targeting low-income students and those who are averaging C’s in class — those who may benefit from a little extra push, Cabrera said.
“I feel like we’re more genuine in meeting the actual needs of kids,” Cabrera said.
The center is funded by a five-year, $263,938 TRIO grant from the U.S. Department of Education. LULAC is working with Evergreen Public Schools, which is providing the space, and Vancouver Public Schools. Spots are available for 20 students from Evergreen and Heritage high schools, as well as Fort Vancouver High School.
These campuses have high free- and reduced-price lunch rates, a barometer of poverty, as well as in neighborhoods where census data suggests a low percentage of families have education greater than a high school degree, said Diana Perez, state director of LULAC.
The goal is to have 85 percent of Upward Bound students graduate high school, attend college and graduate within six years.
“I think if they had this extra push and educational warrior at their side, they’re more prone to lean toward the college-bound track,” Perez said of students enrolled in Upward Bound.
Arlin Martinez, a 16-year-old sophomore at Evergreen High School, has only attended a few Upward Bound events, but said it’s already helping her prepare for her future.
Arlin hopes to be a nurse, and she spent part of Monday running through her class schedule with Cabrera to determine what math and science classes she’ll need to take before graduating.
“You have to have guidance,” she said of the college planning process. “It’s really hard.”
Eder Perez-Quintero, also a sophomore at Evergreen, is the first member of his family to go to high school. He’s trying to set an example for his siblings, he said, and help them along as they pursue their own education.
“Now I’m going to do my best here in order to succeed,” he said.