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Students during the UB summer experience

Upward Bound program provides summer engagement

For over 40 years, Upward Bound (UB) at Yakima Valley College (YVC) has helped hundreds of students from low-income and first-generation backgrounds reach their college dreams.

One of the most rewarding and influential aspects of YVC’s UB program is the 6-week residential summer experience. This summer 34 students from Sunnyside, Granger, Toppenish and Wapato took core classes in math, science, English, Japanese and financial literacy.

One student who found the experience impactful is Angel Gonzalez. Gonzalez started at YVC in the UB program, then later transitioned to Running Start.

“Making the last-minute decision to join the Upward Bound summer program was one of the best things I could have done as I found and built so many different relationships,” said Gonzalez. “Some being life-long friendships, others being professional relationships with staff, and others came from UB alumni, which I will carry with me.”

According to Upward Bound Director Isaias Guerrero, students were able to build remote control cars, construct roller coaster models and prepare and eat traditional ramen. The last week students took a trip to NatureBridge in Port Angeles where they participated in an experiential learning program and learned the history of the Elwah River, the cycle of salmon runs and even how to canoe. 

“The summer residential program allows students to gain a college experience while still being in high school,” said Guerrero. “Students move into the YVC dorms for 6 weeks, live with a roommate and attend a full schedule of courses. This experience helps ease the transition for students who are wanting to pursue higher education after high school.”

“The most impactful lessons I learned at UB Summer were writing my personal essay, choosing my ideal college, as well as finding my intended major(s), and understanding the importance of FAFSA and scholarships. As a first-generation student working towards going into higher education these resources have given me a huge help in succeeding towards my goals,” said Gonzalez.

YVC UB is federally funded by the U.S. Department of Education and serves students in grades 9 – 12 who attend Sunnyside, Granger, Wapato and Toppenish high schools.  Each year, YVC’s program helps more than 100 students from those high schools better understand a college process that oftentimes can be overwhelming, especially for first-generation college students.

For Liliana Rutz, who’s worked with UB students for several years, the summer experience helps highlight the program but also allows students to come full circle.

“This year, like previous years, we were able to provide mentorship to all students. One of the cool things about the summer program is it showcases former UB alums who return as resident assistants and help mentor the next group of students.”