Occidental College's Upward Bound program has been awarded a five-year, $3-million grant by the U.S. Department of Education to continue motivating low-income and first-generation high school students to attend college and complete a postsecondary degree.

This year, all 34 of Occidental's Upward Bound seniors graduated from high school. This fall, they will attend Columbia, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, San Francisco State, Cal State Northridge and Pasadena City College, among other colleges and universities. You can find a complete list here.

The program welcomed its first students in 1966 and is one of the oldest Upward Bound programs in the country. Over 2,500 students from Los Angeles public schools have participated, including John A. Pérez, California State Assembly Speaker emeritus and former chair of the UC Board of Regents. Pérez says that he would not have had such opportunities had it not been for Occidental Upward Bound. "It really proves the point that with the right push, anything is possible," he says.

Oxy Upward Bound will continue to work with students from four Los Angeles Unified School District high schools from Northeast Los Angeles and downtown: Franklin, Lincoln, Belmont and Wilson, while welcoming students from Sotomayor Arts and Sciences Magnet for the first time.  

"I am excited that the work of Oxy UB will continue for five more years," says Jesus Maldonado, director of the Upward Bound program. "I have seen firsthand the impact UB services have on the success of our scholars. The data shows that the program is making a transformative impact on their lives, their families, and their communities."

All of Oxy's Upward Bound participants would be the first in their families to attend college, and almost 90 percent are both first-generation and low-income. Their socioeconomic status reflects the student populations of their public high schools.

"As first-generation students, it is imperative we take steps in diminishing the barriers in our academic journey," said Jocelyn Vivaldo, a 2020 Lincoln graduate now attending UC Berkeley. "It is because of Upward Bound that I can proudly say I am a changed person and the best version of myself I can possibly be."

Oxy Upward Bound is a year-round program that provides academic instruction on Saturdays during the school year. Each summer, participants live for five weeks on the Occidental campus and take rigorous mathematics, English, science, social science, and foreign language courses. Certified teachers teach the courses—some of them former Upward Bound participants themselves.

The goals of the Upward Bound program are to holistically develop key skill sets that positively impact academic performance in high school; expose students to the demands of college and guide them through the college experience; ensure that students graduate from high school with a solid post-secondary plan—both academic and financial; and to graduate students from a four-year college or university in six years or less.

The Upward Bound program began as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson's "war on poverty," and is one of several related programs created by the Educational Opportunity Act of 1964. It was transferred to the Department of Education four years later.