Astoria High School Students Aim High with Upward Bound

Astoria High School Upward Bound Columbia River
Upward Bound Summer Academy students from the ecological group “Swampbusters” examine marine life by the Columbia River. Photo courtesy: Upward Bound

Three Astoria high school seniors are making plans for college next year and the Upward Bound Program is playing a crucial role in guiding them. Trinity Hennessee is weighing her options for the four-year college degree she plans to complete. A self-proclaimed theater kid, Hennessee is considering studying drama at Southern Oregon University, Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle or Portland State University College of the Arts. “The SOU theater program is distinguished for costume design and Cornish has a prestigious arts school; both interest me,” she says. These are choices Hennessee might not be pursuing if not for the Upward Bound program. She feels the program levels the playing field and gives students like her opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have. “Many don’t understand how it really is. It’s not about handouts but granting equal opportunity,” she continues.

Astoria High School Upward Bound Trinity Hennessee
Trinity Hennessee, a senior at Astoria High School, joined the Upward Bound program her junior year and plans to major in theater at a 4-year college. Photo courtesy: Upward Bound

Hennessee is one of the 73 high school students enrolled in Upward Bound in the Astoria, Warrenton and Seaside area. Upward Bound students receive help with high school studies, college preparation and career guidance. The program, for low income families or children of parents who have not completed a bachelor’s degree, helps with college application and test fees. “If not for Upward Bound, I would not be able to apply to all the colleges I wanted to. And I’ve been able to take the ACT test twice,” states Hennessee who has been enrolled in the program since her junior year. “The Upward Bound staff has made a difference in helping walk me through the application process and being aware of deadlines, as well as holding SAT and ACT preparation courses.”

Tyler Gagnon agrees that test preparation courses are helpful. He plans to enroll in journalism at the University of Oregon or Arizona State University. “My passion is sports broadcasting and I dream of being a play-by-play sports announcer or sports reporter,” he says.

Astoria High School Upward Bound Tyler Gagnon
Astoria High School senior Tyler Gagnon has participated in Upward Bound and its sister program, Talent Search, all through high school. He is enthused about studying journalism and becoming a sportscaster. Photo courtesy: Updward Bound

Gagnon was originally enrolled in Upward Bound’s sister program Talent Search as a freshman and sophomore, but says he was encouraged by Program Director Jon Graves to apply for the more intensive Upward Bound program his junior year. Both Talent Search and Upward Bound are federally funded TRIO programs administered by Clatsop Community College. Talent Search has 671 students enrolled from 6th through 12th grade, while Upward Bound serves 9th through 12th graders.

Kathy Perez also enrolled in Upward Bound her junior year after being in Talent Search since middle school. Perez says that Upward Bound has provided her emotional support in addition to academic support. “It’s helpful to have an advocate…someone other than parents or friends to help you in times of trouble,” she says. Upward Bound staff members, including College/Career Advisor Kasey White and Director Jon Graves, also serve as mentors to help with applying for colleges, financial aid or scholarships.

Astoria High School Upward Bound Kathy Perez
Kathy Perez, a senior at Astoria High School, is from a Spanish speaking family and appreciates that Upward Bound materials are in Spanish, so her mother can understand them. Perez plans to study Marine Biology and possibly attend medical school to become a nurse practitioner. Photo courtesy: Upward Bount

Perez has been accepted at both Oregon State University and University of Hawaii and is carefully weighing the pros and cons of both. “I want to pursue a bachelor’s degree in marine or ocean science and ultimately go to medical school to become a nurse practitioner, so I can give back to the community. I want to help people by offering medical services to those who can’t afford them in third world countries and assist with natural disasters,” she says.

Students in Upward Bound can visit colleges through program field trips. This school year seven different trips have been planned from local trips to Clatsop Community College to colleges and universities around Oregon such as Oregon State University and Lewis and Clark College.

Gagnon says he toured the University of Oregon with Upward Bound where he visited the journalism department. For him the college visits have been instrumental in deciding which school to attend. “If I wasn’t in Upward Bound I wouldn’t be as close to selecting a college as I am right now. It’s helped narrow down my choices of where I want to go and what I want to do,” he says.

Astoria High School Upward Bound Seattle
Local Upward Bound students pictured in a front of a gum wall at Pike Place Market in Seattle as part of a field trip to Seattle Pacific University in 2017. Photo courtesy: Upward Bound

Gagnon also visited Portland State University as part of Upward Bound where he was able to hang around downtown and attend a PSU basketball game and experience Portland. “It was really cool to see the culture that Portland has that I really never noticed growing up here in Astoria just a couple hours away,” he says.

Gagnon and Perez both toured Seattle Pacific University last school year as part of Upward Bound and explain that it was a great opportunity to go to an out-of-state college on an overnight trip. Perez says visiting the Museum of Pop Culture was a highlight.  “It was really nice to go the MoMOP Museum, next to the Space Needle, Pike Place Market and super fun to walk around downtown Seattle,” she states.

Each summer local Upward Bound students attend the Upward Bound Summer Academy for six weeks at Clatsop Community College where they participate in academic coursework, small group fieldwork and field trips.  Last summer Hennessee was in the theater group and got the opportunity to attend the Addams Family Musical in Tigard which was significant to her given her interest in theater. Perez was part of the summer academy’s ecological project group. “I was always outdoors, and I liked that it’s what I want to ultimately study,” she says.

For more information, visit the Upward Bound website.

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