GREENEVILLE – Some students have plenty of potential to impact their communities but might not have the same fortunate circumstances as their peers.
Thankfully, those who do not have parents or guardians with a college degree and/or come from low-income families or who have a disability can experience some of the same educational, cultural and social opportunities through the federal TRIO programs. Upward Bound for high school students and Student Support Services for college students enable them to earn a bachelor’s degree and experience more of the world.
Tusculum University has proudly contracted with the federal government for 50 years to provide Upward Bound and 25 years to offer SSS. Leaders of these programs estimate Upward Bound has served nearly 3,000 high school students and SSS has served about 2,000 college students.
“We are honored to participate in these TRIO programs and are proud to recognize the students who have used them as steppingstones for successful careers and lives,” said Dr. Scott Hummel, Tusculum’s president. “I am a first-generation college student and understand the value of a support network that guides and pushes teenagers and young adults to think beyond what they believe is possible. Upward Bound and Student Support Services perform a magnificent service.”
Upward Bound and SSS celebrated their milestone anniversaries at a ceremony Tuesday, June 6, at Tusculum. Joining Dr. Hummel were program leaders and staff, Upward Bound and SSS alumni and a representative of Congresswoman Diana Harshbarger, who spoke about these programs’ value.
At the conclusion, Daryl Brady, district director for Harshbarger, presented Jeanne Stokes with a certificate of special congressional recognition. Stokes served as director of TRIO programs at Tusculum for 29 years and coordinated middle school Talent Search at Tusculum, another TRIO program, for two years. She retired in 2020 and remains a beloved figure on campus.
Stokes was touched to receive the congressional honor. The audience gave her a standing ovation.
“For the congressional office to recognize somebody, that’s pretty special,” Stokes said. “I’ve been recognized by professional organizations and by Tusculum but never by a congressional office. I am grateful for this meaningful honor and appreciative of the opportunity to serve children and young adults during my TRIO career.”
Upward Bound and SSS offerings
The event’s timing appropriately coincided with the annual Upward Bound and Upward Bound Math and Science summer academy, which is being held at Tusculum throughout June.
During the academy, students live on the Tusculum campus for five weeks, attending classes, participating in arts-related activities and enjoying evening events on and off campus. The academy concludes with a weeklong trip, this year to New York City. Upward Bound students also receive tutorial assistance and participate in a number of cultural enrichment events throughout the rest of the year. Upward Bound’s goal is to have students attend college.
The U.S. Department of Education grant for Upward Bound was renewed in 2022 for another five years, with annual funding of $492,228.
The SSS program’s goal is to help students navigate the college environment, graduate and then potentially pursue a master’s degree. Participants benefit from academic advising, workshops, personal coaching, additional cultural trips, student mentoring and the opportunity for additional scholarships. SSS has held banquets and sponsored trips to locations such as New Orleans, Cincinnati and San Diego, with side trips to visit various graduate schools.
The federal government renewed the SSS grant at Tusculum in 2020 for another five years, with annual funding of $335,111. The money makes a difference. Students who participate in SSS are more than twice as likely to graduate than those who qualify but choose not to participate.
“These exceptional programs positively influence young people’s lives and benefit society,” said Dr. David Smith, director of TRIO programs since 2020. “We take great pride in opening a high school student’s eyes to limitless opportunities in Upward Bound and unleashing their talent and building their confidence through SSS. We are thrilled to see them become accomplished adults who strengthen their communities.”
Jeremiah Peterson, who spoke at the event, knows all about the value of SSS. He was from Unicoi County and participated in the program when he was a Tusculum student from 2005-2009. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration with concentrations in accounting and economics.
He now works as a consultant in the education practice of Accenture, an international information technology company, providing strategic planning, operational improvement and digital education support to faculty and staff at higher education institutions.
He cited tangible benefits to being in SSS – loaned textbooks that saved him thousands of dollars; counseling; academic, career and life advising; and the trips. But he also pointed to the intangibles.
“I was a commuter student, and if I had free time while I was on campus, I would stop by the SSS office,” Peterson said. “It was the home base on campus for me. They knew me by name and knew when my tests were and were extremely engaged with me. When a student was in the office, that was the priority for the staff. There was a sense of belonging and connection, and it was a lifeline for me and others with similar backgrounds.”
The SSS experience remains impactful to Peterson. He uses it as an example of how those with whom he works in higher education can impact a student’s retention and ultimate receipt of a degree.
Sarah Jean Chapman understands the power of Upward Bound and said it was a monumental part of her life for a decade. Her older sister, Theresa, was in Upward Bound and had shared her experiences with her siblings. That made Chapman interested in the program. She attended Upward Bound’s year-round classes on Monday nights and then participated in the summer academy at Tusculum. Later, her niece participated in Upward Bound.
“I had always been shy growing up, but with my experiences with Upward Bound, I came out of my shell,” Chapman said. “Upward Bound helped build me as a person. With the love and guidance, I became a more confident person who would speak my mind.”
She has vivid memories of the summer academy and recalls trips to the nation’s capital; Williamsburg, Virginia; Atlanta; and Cincinnati. She called the Upward Bound staff amazing, and said the counselors were energetic, fun and loyal and have become lifelong friends.
Chapman graduated from North Greene High School and then earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary/special education and a master’s in education from Tusculum. She was an Upward Bound staff member, serving as a residential advisor and residential director for six summers and enjoyed the opportunity to mentor young people. That continued into her professional life. She recently retired after serving as an educator in Greeneville City Schools for 30 years.
“I honestly believe Upward Bound was a guiding force in my life and my career,” Chapman said.
Perspective from Jeanne Stokes and a look at the other TRIO programs at Tusculum
Stokes said Upward Bound’s genesis was a realization of the major need in the community serve low-income and first-generation students and those with disabilities. She said it is impressive Tusculum has been able to maintain the Upward Bound grant for 50 years because competition for the funds is so fierce. She wrote the initial grant for SSS and said it was an excellent way to provide resources and the backing students need while they are Tusculum.
She likes the results of both programs, which have produced doctors, lawyers, principals, teachers, college professors and managers. Even those who have not reached these heights are productive members of the community, she said.
In addition to Upward Bound and Students Support Services, Tusculum’s TRIO programs are Upward Bound Math and Science, Talent Search, Talent Search West, Cocke County and Hawkins County Upward Bound and Adults Reaching Career Heights and Educational Success.
To learn more about the TRIO programs at Tusculum, please visit https://site.tusculum.edu/student-success/academic-affairs/first-gen/. Additional information about the university is available at www.tusculum.edu.