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“Perspective” Spotlights Programs that Get Students Ready for College

BOONE — Since entering Appalachian State University last fall, freshman Courtney Wellborn from Ashe County says she’s discovered a fondness for education courses and wants to become a teacher someday.

But without the college preparatory program Upward Bound, she might never have entered college and realized these interests, she says.

“Upward Bound has influenced me greatly,” she says. Through its activities, “I’ve learned the strengths that I have—to depend on myself, teamwork, endurance and patience…and that’s helped me a lot through my freshman year.

“Without Upward Bound, I wouldn’t have found out that I wanted to be a teacher as early as I have,” she says.

The March episode of “Appalachian Perspective,” the university’s cable television program, features Wellborn and Susan McCracken, Appalachian’s director of college awareness and preparation programs.

Only 23 percent of North Carolina residents have bachelor’s degrees, and the rate is even lower in rural Northwest North Carolina. In the 30-minute episode titled “Making College Dreams a Reality,” Wellborn and McCracken discuss Upward Bound and the community partnership program GEAR UP, two academic support programs funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s TRIO Programs division.

Both programs provide young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and/or who are the first in their family to pursue college, with the necessary support to complete high school and enroll in college.

Since 1972, Appalachian’s Upward Bound has served Avery, Ashe, Watauga, and West Wilkes high schools. It enrolls 80 students annually.

Activities include weekly tutoring sessions; academic counseling; classroom instruction; vocabulary and other enrichment activities; college entrance exam preparation; study skills workshops; social, cultural, and personal development activities; educational reward trips; and a comprehensive six-week summer component that includes extensive coursework and allows students to live on campus and adapt to the college environment.

GEAR UP works with Ashe County Middle School students, parents and teachers in preparing young people for college. Part of the Higher Education Amendments of 1998, GEAR UP supports local schools, community-based organizations, businesses, institutions of higher education, and states to work together to create new or expanded plans that strengthen educational opportunities to help students and their parents gain knowledge about college, and to strengthen academic programs and student services.

“Education opens many doors, and it’s very important that any child who wants to learn can pursue education as far as they want to,” says McCracken. “Secondly, if we pursue education and encourage our children to pursue education, we’ll have a more highly educated workforce that’s self-sustainable and can give back to society.”

Wellborn is among Appalachian students and faculty who travel regularly to Ashe County Middle School to tutor students through GEAR UP.

“Encouragement is definitely a factor in going to and completing college,” Wellborn says.

“Appalachian Perspective” is hosted by Chancellor Francis T. Borkowski.

It is a production of the Department of Communication and the Office of Public Affairs.

In Watauga County, “Appalachian Perspective” airs on Charter Communication’s cable Channel 39 at 6 p.m. and Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. on Charter Communication’s cable Channel 2. The program also airs in Raleigh, Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Asheville, Kannapolis and Newport.

For more information, contact producer Linda Coutant at (828) 262-2342.