PCC’s TRIO Upward Bound programs recently received a two-year grant in the amount of $330,000 from the Los Angeles Scholars Investment Fund. The grant money funds both the Math/Science Upward Bound and classic Upward Bound scholarships for graduating high school seniors from Pasadena-area high schools.
The Upward Bound scholarships provide low income and first generation college-bound students with awards ranging from $500 to $5,000 depending on their expected family contribution to college tuition and the cost of attendance. The maximum two-year award for students attending PCC is $1,000.
Upward Bound Director Angela Sotelo said that often with these students the hurdle isn’t being accepted to schools, but paying for them.
“Working with first generation, low income students—one of the barriers is financial need,” said Sotelo. “Yes, you got into UCLA, you got into Berkeley, you got into all these institutions—but then when they see their financial aid awards, it doesn’t cover 100 percent of the costs.”
The scholarships are highly sought after and competitive. Of the 96 high school seniors in the programs, only 47 will be getting the scholarships. In order to qualify students must have at least a 2.5 GPA, be enrolled at a community college or 4–year institution this fall and be eligible for the Pell Grant and Cal Grant. In addition, this year Math/Science Upward Bound Director Juan Carreon said they are giving higher priority to students who have participated more in the programs.
“One thing that’s different this year for this class is that we included involvement in the program because we might have had a student that’s been in our program for 4 years and they’re not as active,” Carreon said. “Then you have those students that have been in the program for maybe two years and they are really active, coming to every Saturday workshop we have, summer programs and field trips.”
Karla Zelaya is a 22-year-old PCC student who received a Math/Science Upward Bound scholarship after graduating from John Muir High School in 2011. Zelaya first attended UCSD for Biology for a year and then transferred to PCC where she has spent the last two years studying biology and working for the TRIO services that have helped her navigate the financial and educational hardships that accompany higher education.
“You have to participate in the program in order to receive it and that’s why I’m giving back to the program because they helped me so much—with the scholarship, helping me get into college, they helped me with my ACT and SAT testing—they just provided a lot of help for me as a first generation student and low income,” Zelaya said.
High school seniors involved in the programs and attending the Pasadena Unified and El Monte Unified School Districts have until May 1 to apply for the scholarships. Winners will be announced on May 23 and May 29.