If you ask me if I work, the answer is “yes.” But explaining what I do? That is tougher—it depends on the time of the year or even the season.
I work for the Upward Bound Projects at Chico State. This is an academic program that helps low-income, first-generation high school students who are college bound but don’t have the necessary financial resources or family background to help them take that next step.
I have done everything from participating in the program during high school to volunteering for the summer program hosted at Chico State and tutoring during the school year to serving as president of the Upward Bound Alumni Association.
As a new participant of the program, I never really realized how much hard work and effort it took to apply to college. I also never realized that I was preparing for college years before I would actually start thinking about applying. The tutoring, summer program classes, and advising that I received were all necessary for me to stay on the path to college. I would have had no clue about how to deal with applications and requirements if it weren’t for the help of Upward Bound.
As a participant of the program, I also started to make a lot of friends. And those Upward Bound friends started to become family. One of the greatest Upward Bound catchphrases is, “Once a UB’er, always a UB’er.” I run into UB friends I haven’t seen for years, and we greet each other like we had never said goodbye.
I also spent time as a residential advisor for the summer program. The position requires rigorous courses during the spring semester and then six weeks of living in the dorms with the students. In those six weeks, the students take classes and have jobs on or around campus during the day. In the evenings, they study at the dorms.
This was a great experience because I had a chance to make such a great difference in student lives. Participants have told me that they look up to me as a big brother because of the help I have given them not only in school, but also in their lives in general. I was up late at night answering questions are about college and how I had to go through obstacles myself growing up. I shared the experience of growing up with parents that understood only Spanish, being part of a low-income family, and other challenges that I had to overcome growing up.
Most of the students also come from tough backgrounds, and I tell them that if I made it this far, they can go much further. Giving each other feedback and support is the main reason we consider Upward Bound a family. So you could say I have a lot of siblings in the program—in addition my biological brother and sister!
I never realized that making a positive impact in young people’s lives could be so rewarding. I always tell the members of the program that they should give back to the program in whatever way they possibly can because of the many great things that the program gave to us as we were growing up. They are things that I can use in the future and I will never regret spending my time on. This is truly the greatest reward of being part of the Upward Bound family.