High school students can ‘maximize their potential’ through Upward Bound

Published 9:00 am Monday, October 3, 2022

Reginald Castilla wants high school students to “maximize their potential,” and gives them that opportunity through Upward Bound.

A federally-funded program of the United States Department of Education, Upward Bound primarily targets low-income, first-generation students.

“We’re just trying to bridge that gap, because so many young people come from households where parents did not graduate college,” said Castilla, the program’s director through Copiah-Lincoln Community College. “Because of that, there may be a lack of motivation to maximize their potential.”

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Upward Bound works on a grant system that must be applied for every five years. The program at Co-Lin serves 60 students, in high schools from Crystal Springs down to Brookhaven.

“Our goal is to provide academic support by offering tutorial-style classes,” Castilla said. “We also engage students in ACT prep work, and assist with FAFSA (federal financial information) applications when it comes time for them to graduate.”

A college-bound experience is also offered during the summer months.

“Students come live on the Co-Lin Wesson campus for a week or two and get a feel for what campus life is like,” Castilla said. “We also do cultural excursions, things they otherwise would not have had the opportunity to do, like go to a Broadway show, to a professional baseball game, and visit other college campuses.”

Castilla said the goal is not to recruit students for Co-Lin, but to help the ninth-12th graders see what college has to offer and encourage them to advance their educations.

“Some students will chose Co-Lin, but others will choose Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Jackson State, Belhaven, Millsaps, University of Tennessee, and so on,” he said. “The president and the whole staff at Co-Lin are totally on board — and the college board itself — with what we’re doing in an effort to support the community at-large. And all the superintendents have been very gracious in welcoming us in, and providing the limited resources they have to help assist these students in the program.”

Though not a first-generation college student himself, Castillo was raised in a home where both his parents served that population. His mother led one of the first Head Start programs in the state.

For more than 20 years, Castillo has worked in programs to serve this portion of the community, specifically in Upward Bound, at a number of institutions, including as director at Jackson State University and Hinds Community College.

“When this opportunity presented itself (at Co-Lin), it was a no-brainer to come to an area such as this to work with other students and expose them to this opportunity,” Castillo said.

He recently visited Families United Training Center in Brookhaven to talk about the program with director Falana McDaniel and the center’s students.

“This partnership is an answered prayer,” McDaniel said. “The Upward Bound program’s goals and objectives align with our mission — helping low-income and potential first-generation college students become successful. Several of our high school students have been in (our) program since fourth and fifth grades, and I am excited that they will be participating in something even more remarkable that will help them generate the skills and motivation necessary for success.”

“We are trying to establish partnerships with the community, to engage our students in community service,” said Castillo. “So we reached out to them and others in the community to do this. We want the students to experience giving back. That’s how we begin to talk and we encourage them to apply to Upward Bound.”

Students in ninth through 12th grades can apply for Upward Bound, including rising ninth-grade students, who can apply in their eighth-grade year and begin UB in the summer prior to their freshman year in high school.

Applications are available at area high schools, and from Castilla by emailing reginald.castilla@colin.edu.