LEMOORE — Students do not have to stop learning because schools are out for the summer. High school students across the Valley are taking advantage of the West Hills College Upward Bound Program to prepare them for college.
More than 120 local high school students are participating in the six-week summer program at the WHC Lemoore campus to take courses toward their associate’s degree and additional courses ranging from robotics to American Sign Language. Fifty-five students are attending the program on the Coalinga campus.
“The Upward Bound Program is so important to our students because it provides them with all the right tools for a successful pre-college experience that will lead to a successful college career and a four-year degree attainment,” said WHCL Upward Bound Program Director Nestor Lomeli in a press release.
Upward Bound draws from six local high schools — Avenal, Corcoran, Hanford West, Lemoore, Laton and Riverdale — targeting low income students.
The program runs throughout the entire academic year requiring students to attend weekly after-school tutorials at their high school campus, attend weekend classes once a month at WHCL and take the six-week summer classes at the college campus.
In order to qualify, students must show their parents do not have a college degree or that the student is from a low income family. Students must also show they have a strong interest and commitment toward furthering their education.
At WHCL, students attend American Sign Language classes Mondays and Wednesdays and robotics on Tuesdays and Thursdays with additional college courses throughout the day. Fridays are set for field trips to four-year colleges in the Valley, Lomeli said.
He said exposing students to different colleges gives them more career options and helps narrow college choices.
“[Students] are very grateful,” he said.
Lomeli said each class size is relatively small ranging from 10 to 15 students to keep the one-on-one focus between the instructor and students.
Having been an Upward Bound student himself, Lomeli said he wanted to help students become better prepared for college.
“The whole purpose of the program is to provide services for under-represented, disadvantage students,” he said.
Lomeli emphasized that the program this year is highlighting dual enrollment so students can earn college credit upon graduating high school.
Hanford West High School junior Leslie Contreras said she is happy that the program is getting her one step closer to making her the first college graduate in her family.
She said more students should join because the program has so much to offer.
“It’s better than staying home,” she said. “You learn more.”
Lemoore High School junior Damian Castro agrees. He likes building robots and figuring out what parts are needed.
“We get to build different things,” he said.
Lomeli said the program originally started in 1964 nationwide and the West Hills Community College District implemented it 12 years ago on the Lemoore and Coalinga campuses. The program also offers services to additional sites in Laton, Corcoran and Avenal.
“We are now looking to expand our partnerships with other colleges, universities and organizations,” Lomeli said.