At the beginning of the Lyndon State College Upward Bound program each summer, I have watched 50 teenagers take a monumental leap of faith. Students hug their families goodbye and board a bus full of other students from around the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont and the North Country of New Hampshire. At 15 years old, would you have been brave enough to get on a bus with 50 strangers, give up six weeks of your summer vacation to take academic classes, and collectively volunteer 3,500 hours in the community? Upward Bound students do. Each and every summer. It might sound clichÃ©, but there is no other word for it: the Upward Bound summer program is magical. And yet, all of this is being placed at risk after the debt ceiling debates that raged in Washington, D.C. this summer. Decisions have been made, and now it is up to the "super committee" of 12 to determine whether or not big discretionary spending cuts will directly impact the educational opportunities of students in our community.
The Upward Bound summer program begins with a journey, a fitting metaphor for the journey they are truly embarking upon: the long and often winding path to college. Upward Bound students are the first in their families to pursue a college education and come from modest income backgrounds. Our trips together have taken us to historical cities, cultural hubs, beautiful college campuses, the center of nation's government, and into the wilderness. It is a great chance for young people from our community to see what is going on in the world around them and begin to discover what their role in that world might be. The promise of Upward Bound has always been one of guidance. "Here's the roadmap, here's what you do. You say this is your dream, well this is how you go out there and make it a reality." It is an incredibly powerful message to share with young people: "what you do right now matters, the choices you make and the work you put in to your education will determine your future, so just who do you want to be?" Through Upward Bound they are empowered, and together we undertake the journey to a college education.