Simpson University Upward Bound Students Adapt to Virtual Summer Program

REDDING, Calif.— Simpson University’s Upward Bound leadership team has adapted to the challenges presented by the pandemic, offering a robust virtual summer program to more than 240 high school students at four North State high schools.

In 2017, Simpson University was awarded a $5.7 million, five-year grant to administer the Upward Bound program at Anderson, West Valley, Dunsmuir and Mount Shasta high schools. The federally funded educational program is designed to give first-generation and/or economically disadvantaged students better opportunities to attend college.

For the past two summers, more than 100 Upward Bound students participated in a program that included a weeklong residential experience at Simpson University, four weeks at high school sites, then a weeklong road trip to visit colleges.

As it became clear that COVID-19 restrictions would not allow for the same experience in 2020, staff members spent nearly two months putting together a program consisting of college classes, SAT Math Bootcamps, and foreign language, through an online learning format called Mango. Students also studied drone technology (building, programming and flying), culminating in outdoor events to fly the drones they assembled.

In a pilot program, Simpson University made Intro to Business, taught by Dr. Daniel Sloan, available remotely to more than 40 Upward Bound students from Simpson University and UC Davis.  Another new element this summer is student participation in the Upward Bound Work-Study program. The goal is to teach students what Work-Study is and how it relates to college financial aid. A secondary outcome for Work-Study is to compensate students who work as interns in their local community or for Upward Bound, or who learn a new career skill, like drone technology.

Although students are disappointed about not being able to travel this summer, they are finding the new format educational and informative. Mount Shasta High School Upward Bound student Siena Maniatis wrote this description of the summer program there:

Despite being physically apart, the summer program has continued to go on virtually, giving students a social opportunity as well as supplying a positive learning atmosphere completely free of charge for eligible students. 

Usually, the summer program is in person at the high school; it follows a weekly schedule with each student taking an online class through College of the Siskiyous as well as participating in learning activities at the school a few days a week. Everything is taking place online this year.

In past years, the summer program has hosted a trip for college tours which also includes fun activities. Last year’s participants took a charter bus through Oregon and Washington to tour colleges in the area and participate in fun activities included ziplining and visiting the Space Needle.

This year, students are still required to take an online course of their choice through either College of the Siskiyous or Simpson University; all other activities are done online as well. Students have weekly one-on-one meetings with advisor Jeanine Masciola through Zoom, to make sure they are successful at meeting their responsibilities. Activities vary on a weekly basis, with all learning activities taking place on Zoom or other online platforms.

During Weeks 1 and 2 students met with college representatives on Zoom to take virtual tours of campuses all around California. Week 3 provided students with the opportunity for SAT Math Bootcamp, a class that focused on preparing students for college entrance exams. Weeks 4 and 5 provide an opportunity to learn about Drone Technology/Robotics with Mount Shasta High School teacher Greg Eastman. Week 6, the final week of the program, will offer a paleoanthropology class with Mount Shasta High teacher Barbara Paulson. The summer program has been granted permission to meet in person a few days during weeks 4, 5, and 6 — taking all necessary precautions. 

Although it is disappointing for both students and staff alike that they are limited to online learning, the Mount Shasta High School Upward Bound summer program has made immense efforts to adapt itself to meet the needs of its students amidst these difficult times. The program has done everything possible to make the contents of its duration enjoyable as well as knowledgeable. 

Students at all the high schools are adapting well to the new format, staff members say. Here are some of their comments:

  • “We are still thriving and managing to have a successful summer program, while staying safe.” – Mount Shasta High School sophomore
  • “I would like to be able to go on trips, but I did like the SAT math boot camp.” – Anderson Union High School sophomore
  • “I haven’t done the summer program in the past, but I really like the check-ins.” – Dunsmuir High School junior
  • “I liked how immersive (the Virtual College Tours) were and they told a lot of details. I liked UC Santa Cruz because the tour guide was very good at answering questions.” – West Valley High School rising senior
  • “I am definitely going to apply to UCSB in the fall, and I am happy to say that Upward Bound made that happen.” – Mount Shasta High School rising senior

With COVID precautions in place, students met in July to fly the drones they built and programmed for four weeks. Teachers Kurt Champe from Dunsmuir High School and Greg Eastman from Mount Shasta High gave instruction via Zoom classes. Simpson University communication professor Molly Rupert and President Norman Hall’s daughter, Naomi, visited the Upward Bound students at West Valley High School to observe their drones in action.

Since the start of the Upward Bound program administered by Simpson University, 534 North State high school students have participated. Among 2019 graduates, 37 Upward Bound seniors earned a combined $430,708 in tuition aid for college, an average of $11,640 per student. Students were introduced to these grant and scholarship opportunities through workshops conducted by Upward Bound advisors. More than 90 percent of those seniors attended a community college or four-year university in the fall of 2019. For the class of 2020, one site thus far has graduated 17 Upward Bound seniors, who have earned more than $265,000 in tuition aid.

Photos courtesy Jeanine Masciola and Molly Rupert

Top: Upward Bound high school students take a virtual tour of Simpson University during their summer program.
Middle: Students from the Mount Shasta High School Upward Bound program assemble and fly drones.
Bottom: Students from the West Valley High School Upward Bound program meet to fly their drones.

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Simpson University, a Christian university founded in 1921, moved to Redding 30 years ago and will celebrate its centennial in 2021. In addition to offering 25 majors in its traditional undergraduate program, the university has graduated more than 4,000 North State adults from its ASPIRE degree-completion program, and nearly 3,000 from its School of Education. It has a No. 7-ranked School of Nursing, a seminary, and master’s programs in counseling psychology and organizational leadership. Simpson University is listed in U.S. News and World Report’s Top 100 Regional Universities West and recognized nationally by Colleges of Distinction. The university is launching new programs in digital media, computer information systems, and engineering, and recently added athletics programs in track and field, swimming and diving, women’s wrestling, and men’s volleyball, as well as a bass fishing team. The university is also working to better serve transfer students from community colleges through its commitment to Associate Degree for Transfer agreements. Learn more about Simpson University at simpsonu.edu. Follow university news at simpsonunews.com.