Taylor Chien works on a project during the Upward Bound summer program.
PLATTSBURGH — Nicholas Averill once sat quietly off to the side.
Now he walks up the center, and while he still sits to the side if he wants to, he isn’t quiet and he’s no longer shy.
“I think this opened me up more,” said the Chazy Central Rural School student of the Upward Bound program. “I am able to go up and talk to new people.”
Avery and high school students from around the North Country recently participated in Upward Bound’s summer program, during which they took a trip to Boston, lived in the dorms at Plattsburgh State, and enrolled in courses similar to what they would take in high school and college.
“Our goal is exposure,” said Brian Post, director of the Upward Bound program. “We do a lot of college readiness and a ton of academic related workshops.”
Upward Bound, launched in 1965, is a federally funded educational program that provides high school students, largely from low income families or whose parents did not attend college, with better opportunities for attending college. Out of nearly 900 Upward Bound programs nationwide, the one at Plattsburgh State is the fourth largest, as well as the largest in New York state.
Since 1966, more than 1,500 high school students from around the North Country have completed Upward Bound at Plattsburgh State. More than 80 percent of them have pursued postsecondary education immediately after high school.
Among other things, the programs provides students with visits to colleges in the Northeast, career internships and job shadowing, career field trips, more than 6,000 hours of community outreach and the summer program.
“The summer program is an academic program,” said Brian Post, director of Upward Bound at Plattsburgh State. “Kids take courses and live in the dorm to get a feel of what it is like to be independent.”
A faculty of 20 offers preview courses of what students take the following fall and enrichment courses, such as engineering, Chinese and Latin. The theme for this year’s summer program was technology.
The five-week program kicked off with a trip to Boston. Last year students went to Maine, and the year before that, New York City. Such trips are about exposure and provide youth with cultural opportunities.
Families also learn to navigate the college process, including financial aid. Upward Bound hopes to improve the GPA of students, as well as their self confidence.
“Some kids during the regular school year are quiet, secluded and reserved, and they come here over the summer and find kids similar to them and have little social explosions,” said Corey Mousseau, an Upward Bound teacher who also works for Plattsburgh High School. “That boost of confidence carries over into the classroom, and you see a huge change.”
Upward Bound offered Mousseau his first teaching job. He teaches technology, providing students with hands-on learning.
“It is cool to see these kids come in on their own time,” he said. “They don’t have to be here.”
Becky Shuman taught at the summer program to cultivate an interest in music and show children how technology relates to it. Among other activities, her students built instruments out of recycled materials.
“As a demographic, this group sometimes finds it hard to find a place to fit in and this helps them stay motivated,” said Shuman, who teaches at Saranac Central School.
Helene Meshefsky’s daughter Andrea has enjoyed her classes, made many friends and has big plans for after high school.
“My first daughter was in the program too and was shy, and this helped her get into college.”
Toni LaValley was recruited for the program and is in her first year. The Plattsburgh High School student said she has made new friends.
“Upward Bound teaches you a lot of the skills you will need.”
Taylor Chien is in his third year in the program. He heard about it his freshman year at Saranac Lake High School when other students recommended it.
He appreciates that the classes help him get into college.
He also said he was once timid and not very talkative.
“Upward Bound helped get me out of my shell.”