Oxford Area High School senior soars through Upward Bound
● By Steven Hoffman
When Oxford Area High School senior Jada Pearsall was in elementary school, her brother Torrin Davis, a member of the Class of 2008, was awarded a full four-year scholarship to California University of Pennsylvania. His achievement was the result of many years of hard work and the assistance of the Upward Bound program at Lincoln University, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
With encouragement from her mother, Mary Davis, Jada knew that when she entered high school, she also wanted to be a part of the Upward Bound program. “When I was younger and watching my brother go through the Upward Bound experience and seeing how much it helped him, I knew it was the right program for me,” she said.
Since her freshman year, Jada has not only been a proud member of Upward Bound, but blossomed as one of the top students in the program, which includes over 100 students from eight Philadelphia area high schools. Her dedication to the program and the effort she has made toward improving her academics and transitioning to post-secondary education were recently recognized by Upward Bound with two honors, one of which represents the highest achievement a student in the program can attain.
Upward Bound is a federally-funded pre-college program that serves high school students from low-income families, as well as families in which neither parent holds a bachelor's degree. The program is designed to provide students with the academic support necessary to successfully complete high school and enroll in a post-secondary educational institution.
Participants take college-level courses at 750 sites across the nation. Upward Bound graduates have a 92 percent college enrollment rate with an 80 percent college retention/graduation rate.
“The really good thing about the program is that it not only helps you to get to college, but when you get there they will follow you all the way with advice and assistance,” said Jada.
During the school year, Upward Bound students come to the Lincoln University campus for two hours every Tuesday and Thursday evening, where they can study and work on their high school course assignments in a supportive environment. Lincoln faculty and students are available to help with any problems the Upward Bound students might be having. Upward Bound students also come to campus each Saturday morning for a two-hour session, which includes SAT prep classes.
Beginning in their junior year, Upward Bound students participate in a six-week summer session of classes taught by area high school teachers. Courses center on composition, science, math and foreign language.
The schedule is intensive, with students taking eight classes per day from Monday through Thursday. Fridays and Saturdays are devoted to tours of college campuses in the area as well as group recreational activities, and study sessions are held on Sundays.
“During summer session we can’t have cell phones, because you have to be totally focused on your academics,” said Jada. “At first it was a little nerve-wracking for me, because I would be living on campus for five weeks and you get a feeling of homesickness. But you also get to experience what college is like on a daily basis.”
Jada said that Upward Bound has given her the confidence to take courses at the high school, such as pre-calculus and physics, which she otherwise would have thought might be too difficult. She has excelled to such an extent that she was inducted into the high school’s chapter of National Honor Society.
Because her attitude is exactly what the program hopes to instill in its students, Jada received two of the most prestigious honors granted by Upward Bound. This past July, at the annual awards ceremony held at the end of each summer session, Jada earned the program’s highest achievement, being named Miss Upward Bound.
The title is awarded to the female Upward Bound student who most embodies the ideals of the program and displays a commitment to academics and community service and a strong level of leadership, and serves as a role model for her peers. “When my name was read at the ceremony I was shocked,” said Jada
Also, this past summer, Jada received the Isaiah Smith Memorial Award recognizing dedication and loyalty to the goals of Upward Bound
While Jada knows she wants to study nursing for a career as a nurse/anesthesiologist, she is undecided about where she will attend college. But she had narrowed her choices to two institutions that are very close to her heart, Lincoln University and California University of Pennsylvania.
“The Upward Bound program means a lot to me,” said Jada. “It has helped me in so many ways, like learning to be on time and using good communication skills. The program is great for high school students to explore new things that they haven't seen before. I would encourage any eligible student to take advantage of the program, because you will learn everything about the process of getting into college and how to succeed when you get there.”