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High Schoolers Get College Experience at Upward Bound Summer Program

Gabe Garrant

Soon-to-be high school senior Gabe Garrant is spending part of his summer as an intern observing surgeries being performed at CVPH Medical Center as part of the Upward Bound summer program at SUNY Plattsburgh.

The Northeastern Clinton Central School student has the opportunity for this first-hand experience thanks to his participation in the federally funded program that provides support to high school students under the TRIO umbrella. The program is in the first week of its annual summer session.

Trio gaming classUpward Bound, which runs all year in area high schools, provides college prep support and opportunities to students from low-income families and those in which neither parent graduated college with a bachelor’s degree. For Garrant, the internship — the program’s first foray at CVPH — is feeding into his desire to go on to a career in the medical field.

Interning at CVPH

“I’m overseeing the operating room; I watch the surgeries while OR nurses walk me through the whole operation, explaining what they’re doing and why they’re doing it,” Garrant said from the lobby of Au Sable Hall on the SUNY Plattsburgh campus where he was about to go to a public speaking class called “Debate It.”

“I’m quite interested in the medical field and would like to be a registered nurse and work my way to becoming a physician assistant,” Garrant said. “This internship gives me the opportunity to see what registered nurses do and what physician assistants do.”

Upward Bound, one of three TRIO programs at SUNY Plattsburgh along with Student Support Services and Educational Opportunity Program, is a federal outreach and student services program designed to identify and provide services for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Those at SUNY Plattsburgh serve and assist low-income and first-generation college students and those with disabilities and special needs.

Nearly 170 Students from 15 Districts

Brian Post, Upward Bound director at Plattsburgh, said they work with students all school year, “but the summer program is the only time we have everyone together on campus.”

gamers“We will have nearly 170 students this year from 15 school districts throughout Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties,” he said. “The overall goal every summer is to give students a college-like experience during high school, which involves taking classes on campus, eating in the dining hall and living in a residence hall.  Students’ first experience with Upward Bound is typically during the summer following 9th grade and continues through high school graduation. “

He said they bring in students after freshman year, whom they call “Rising Sophomores,” through those entering their senior year in high school.

“Each student has a schedule of four classes, a mix of preview (college) core classes with a wide variety of electives that each student selects, as they do in in college,” he said. Core classes include chemistry, government, physics, calculus, English and math with electives running the gamut from exploring poetry to genocide and the Holocaust, ukulele to robotics.

Teachers from Local Schools

Upward Bound hires teachers from local school districts, many of whom have been serving the program for more than 20 years, who teach in areas of their experience and passion, Post said.

“They all believe in the mission and enjoy coming back each year,” he said.

And like Garrant, 22 other Rising Seniors are placed in internships throughout campus and community at sites matching each student’s career interests, Post said.

“Each student forgoes their fourth class in the afternoon and goes directly to their internship site immediately following lunch,” he said.

Workplace Experiences

Post said the goal of the internship is to “have real workplace experience while also earning a stipend from the program for their efforts.”

Placements include the Clinton County district attorney’s office, Schluter Systems, UFirst Credit Union, Plattsburgh City Court, Assemblyman Billy Jones’ office, the YMCA and the Strand Center for the Arts, among others.

IT helpdesk blair and sheasonTess Blair and Cali Sheason, seniors from Chazy Central Rural School and Chateaugay Central School, respectively, were placed with SUNY Plattsburgh’s IT Helpdesk in Feinberg Library. The rising seniors are given three areas of interest for internship placement. Because Blair is interested in studying electrical engineering, computer science or cybersecurity, she was placed with the Helpdesk.

Sheason had similar interests in studying game design, computer science or IT systems. The Helpdesk was a perfect fit. Both have aspirations for college. Although Blair said she has a whole spreadsheet of college possibilities, Sheason has narrowed down her prospect to SUNY Canton, Rochester Institute of Technology or Champlain College in Burlington, Vt.

Interaction with Other Students

To Blair, Upward Bound has been a way to interact with other students her age whom she wouldn’t otherwise have been able to at school.

“It offers a learning experience that you don’t find in a high school classroom, studying for tests and grades,” she said. “And it helps with college planning along with counselors and college mentors. I really like it.”

Sheason agreed, saying “Upward Bound is a program for connecting people together, student to student or student to counselor. It gives us resources we need to succeed in a college environment.”

“Before I had heard of Upward Bound, I couldn’t picture myself going to college,” Sheason said. “My family is kind of poor, so it’s nice to have something that (caters) to families like mine where college is more than just a dream.”

College Visits

Garrant has had some experience investigating medical careers through Champlain Valley Educational Services’ New Visions program, so his Upward Bound summer program internship dovetails into his college career plans.

“What’s nice about Upward Bound is we get to visit a lot of colleges during the year and learn what you like and what you don’t want,” Garrant said. And one of the highlights of the summer program is the annual Leadership Trip where students will get to visit Harvard, Northeastern, Boston College and Salem State University in Massachusetts, Post said. It won’t all be academic.

”We will be seeing the sights as well with a duck boat tour, a Red Sox game and a tour of the historic sites in Salem. It’s a great trip,” he said.

End-of-Summer Semi-Formal

At the end of the summer session, staff host a semi-formal banquet as a final send-off. As they’ve done in years prior, staff members are soliciting donations of gently used semi-formal clothing for those students who don’t have or can’t afford to buy appropriate party wear. Donations will be accepted through Wednesday, Aug. 2 at the summer offices in Harrington Hall, open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., closed for lunch from noon to 12:45 p.m.

Post believes Upward Bound works because it gives students, many of whom are first of their families to attend college, the “opportunity to learn the process and experience what it feels like to be a college student,” he said.

“This is something that's not typically afforded to students of our background and why it's important to support and guide them throughout the process.”

For more information on Upward Bound, or to donate clothing for the semi-formal, call 518-564-2030 or email [email protected].

— Story, Photos by Associate Director of Communications Gerianne Downs

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