Azusa Pacific University’s Upward Bound program recently received a grant from the U.S. Department of Education in the amount $297,557 per year for five years, totaling nearly $1.5 million. This grant enables APU’s Upward Bound program, now in its fifth year, to continue its significant partnership with Azusa Unified School District, helping students achieve the skills they need to graduate high school and pursue post-secondary education.
“Through this new grant, APU and Azusa Unified will build upon our successful track record of equipping students to succeed in college,” said Armando Bustos, MS, project director for the Upward Bound program. “Education is the pathway to a better life for these students and their families. It’s an honor to support them and see their college dreams come true.”
Each year, APU’s Upward Bound team serves 60 Azusa High School (AHS) students. When the outgoing class graduates, their spots are filled by underclass members. The program is free for students. Upward Bound participants enroll in high school college preparatory courses so they are eligible to apply to California State Universities, University of California institutions, and private schools, including APU. They receive services including after school tutoring, individual academic counseling, college and career exploration, and college and financial aid application assistance. In addition, participants can benefit from attending Saturday Academy, a series of 16 workshops throughout the year that teach skills in areas such as financial literacy, goal setting, and scholarship writing. The program also helps students explore their collegiate options by touring different universities each year.
Last year, 19 Upward Bound students graduated from AHS, with 17 going enrolling in post-secondary education. Several chose to stay local, attending APU, Cal State, UC, or other universities around the region. Yerania Serrato-Bucio, the AHS 2021 class valedictorian and a mentor for underclass members in the Upward Bound program, received a full ride scholarship as a QuestBridge Scholar and a Gates Scholar to study medicine at the University of Notre Dame.
“The Upward Bound Program has a transformative impact on Azusa Unified students, equipping them with the self-confidence and tenacity to thrive in high school and college,” said Arturo Ortega, superintendent of the Azusa Unified School District. “APU has been a great partner and advocate for AUSD students. Securing an additional five years of funding opens up valuable new opportunities for our incoming freshmen.”
During the 2020-21 academic year, 91 percent of AHS Upward Bound participants had a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher; 99 percent continued on to the next grade level or graduated with a regular secondary school diploma; and 89 percent enrolled in a postsecondary institution. “What the numbers don’t reflect is the ripple effect,” Bustos said. “Our students primarily come from low-income families. Our goal is that by going to college, they can transform the socioeconomic status of their family and help them lead happy, successful lives.”
“The Upward Bound grant enables APU to provide education and assistance to students who otherwise may not have the information and inspiration they need to go on to college,” said Rukshan Fernando, PhD, provost. “This work aligns directly with two of our APU Cornerstones—Community and Service, and we are so proud of the Upward Bound program at APU for the work they do and the accomplishment of receiving this grant once again.”
Bustos said that future plans include increasing program offerings to help more students. “We hope to expand TRIO services into other school districts. TRIO programs represent an umbrella of other grants that support first-gen, underrepresented students in their goals of pursuing postsecondary education,” Bustos said.
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Azusa Pacific University is an evangelical, Christian university committed to God First and excellence in higher education. With 68 bachelor’s degrees, 48 master’s degrees, 18 certificates, 10 credentials, and 9 doctoral programs, the university offers its more than 8,000 students a high-quality education on campus, online, and at several regional locations throughout Southern California.