To D.C. and Back, MAC’s Upward Bound Program Wraps Up Another Summer
Dozens of students from Farmington, North County, West County, Bismarck, Central, Potosi, Kingston, Valley Caledonia, Arcadia Valley, and Fredericktown school districts participated in Mineral Area College Upward Bound activities this summer, one of which included a three-day trip to Washington D.C.
Upward Bound at Mineral Area College, a federal TRIO program that encourages college attendance among certain populations of high school students, wrapped up another successful, six-week summer program that included a trip to Washington, D.C., a number of local field trips, job shadowing, and introductions to a state legislator and other local officials.
Rebecca Neighbors, director of Upward Bound at Mineral Area College, said the annual summer program keeps students engaged during the summer months, and encourages them to not only complete high school, but perhaps be the first in their families to attend college. The students come from Farmington, North County, West County, Bismarck, Central, Potosi, Kingston, Valley Caledonia, Arcadia Valley, and Fredericktown school districts.
She said the summer trip to Washington, D.C., was the grand finale of this year’s summer program theme, which focused on government and leadership development. “Many of our students have never been out of state, so this year’s summer trip was especially exciting,” she said.
The trip to Washington, D.C., was the culmination of the summer program, and took place July 17-20. Fifty-nine students boarded buses that took them from Park Hills to the east coast. While in D.C., the group visited Arlington National Cemetery and Mount Vernon, took in the Capitol and saw many memorials. And of course, they made a big splash with their red t-shirts. Neighbors said students design the group’s t-shirts every summer based on their trip and summer theme. This year’s t-shirt showed the steps of the capitol with profiles of Washington, Lincoln and Truman above, UFOs buzzing around their heads, and “Take me to your leader” written below.
Neighbors said while the students had a good time, it was clear many were forming lasting impressions during their trip.
“It was encouraging to see students take such an interest in our history and freedom,” Neighbors said. “Many took ‘rubbings’ from the Vietnam Memorial Wall of friends’ and family members’ names who lost their life in the war.”
Earlier this summer, the kids had received civic lessons when they visited the Iron County Courthouse, a visit arranged by Associate Circuit Judge Randall Head. Drug Court Commissioner John Kiser, Sheriff Roger Medley, Deputy Scott Maxey, Treasurer Denise Bates, Prosecuting Attorney Brian Parker, Circuit Clerk Sammye Gail, and Presiding County Commissioner Donald Barzowski all met with the students and explained their roles and how county government works.
Missouri Rep. Paul Fitzwater, R-144th District, met with the students both at the Iron County Courthouse, and also the following week, June 25, at the students’ formal dinner at Heritage Hall in Bonne Terre, where he talked about the importance of integrity in leadership.
“The formal dinner is usually preceded by an etiquette presentation, but this year local salons volunteered to help the girls with their hair while the boys participated in a class to learn about ironing and how to tie a necktie,” Neighbors said.
Salons participating in the lessons included All About Me Salon, National Academy of Beauty Arts, Pat & Co. Salon, Sensibly Chic Salon, Superior Vibes, Ooh La La Salon, TKP Salon, Xtremes Salon, and J.C. Penny’s Salon. “The purpose of the dinner is to try to give students the experience of dining in a more formal setting so they feel more comfortable with it later in life,” Neighbors said. “It was a very memorable evening for the students.”
The students also job-shadowed with professionals from several businesses this summer to learn about careers, including Anytime Fitness’s Cody Rogers, Basset Dental’s Dr. Ben Basset, Taylor Engineering, USDA’s Ron Morrow, Parkland Hospital’s Tina Tharp, Circuit Judge Sandy Martinez, the Farmington Police Department, Techno Wizards’ Scott Peeler, Debbie Thrasher with Mrs. Thrasher’s Preschool, Graphic Options’ JasonBuxton, Thompson Photography, Complete Vision Center’s Dr. Mark Kahrhoff, Nobbe Company’s Bucky Branham, Farmington High School, Farmington Lincoln Intermediate School, Park Hills Parks Department’s Mr. Dooley Politte, and Marler Music’s Ray Marler.
“Students are able to observe what professionals actually do on their job and ask questions,” Neighbors said. “I really appreciate all the local businesses who volunteer their time each year for us to offer students this opportunity. It is great to live in a community where local professionals take time to invest in youth.”
While the hectic summer program is over, Upward Bound continues to serve students with weekly meetings, tutoring, and Saturday programs. Plans are already being made for annual recruiting in January. “We are looking for students who have the potential of becoming the first person in their family to graduate from college,” Neighbors said.
“Our job in Upward Bound is to help prepare high school students for college academically, socially, and culturally. We know we have succeeded at our job when one of our alumni successfully completes a four year degree and is working in the career they dreamed about years before.”