Summer Academy Enriches Upward Bound Students

Career planning and academic enrichment were all part of the residential experience for 65 area students.

  • - Yu Hang Pan (left), Shallyn Oakes and Trevor Nicholson react to their robot moving for the first time.

  • - Lynne Gilchrist (left), Andrew Holt and Paul Adams assemble a robotic dog made of Legos.

  • - Professor Laura DeFazio and Grace Griest work on an art project.

  • - Speaker John Siciliano with students Zoey Burnworth (left), Allysen VanSickle, Sincere McBridge, Haleigh Kelley and Grace Griest.

Cal U hosted 65 students from nine area school districts for the TRIO Upward Bound Summer Academy, a five-week residential experience that helps prepare them for postsecondary education. 

Students took classes in robotics, Italian, geometry and trigonometry, calculus, physics, chemistry, computer science, communications and algebra. Sessions also helped students with career planning, scholarship and financial searches and more.

Dr. Pamela Twiss, from Cal U’s Social Work Department, taught “Changing Faces of Northern Appalachia” during the Summer Academy. 

“We often don’t embrace our Appalachian heritage,” Twiss said. “When I ask students in this area where they’re from they’ll say, ‘You’ve never heard of it,’ or ‘It’s not important.’ It’s fundamentally wrong for young people to feel that way about where they’re from.”

The class explored the region’s contributions to the industrial revolution, immigration and recent newcomers to region due to Marcellus shale drilling. Students were encouraged to explore their families’ roots in the region for a final class project. 

“I don’t want them to overlook their legacies,” Twiss said. “I want them to know that Cal U is a place that values them, and their families, and their contributions to the region, the nation and the world. 

In Vulcan Hall, Cal U art professor Laura DeFazio took students for a walk on the creative side with “Movin’ and Groovin’ with Animals of PA.”

“This is a college-level introduction to gesture and movement,” DeFazio said. “I want students to think about what things actually do when they move to give them an advanced understanding of how line, form and movement come to life in animals. I have them literally pose like an animal to feel where that movement comes from.”

Jared Rastoka, who teaches physics and physical science at Carmichaels Area Senior High School, helped his “Lego Robotics” class get their creations up and running.

The class taught technology and engineering concepts as students build robots using bricks, motors and sensors and bring them to life with a programmer application.

“I liked the creativity,” said Connellsville Area High School sophomore Trevor Nicholson. “I’m interested in business as a career, but you can’t go wrong learning more about computers.”

Another Summer Academy highlight was the first STEAM Lecture Series, with speakers John Siciliano, an actor and paralympian who shared his inspirational story, and Antoine Patton, executive director of the Photo Patch Foundation, which facilitates communication between children and their incarcerated parents.

About Upward Bound

Upward Bound is a nationwide, federally funded TRIO program that has been offered at Cal U since the 1966-1967 academic year. It targets students from families where neither parent has a college degree, or where household income falls within federal guidelines.  

Students range from ninth-graders to those who will begin college this fall. 

The Fayette Project serves up to 93 students in five school districts. The Monongahela Project serves up to 63 students per year from four school districts. 

During the school year, Upward Bound students meet weekly with Cal U staff and students who provide help with tutoring and study skills. They also visit Cal U a few times a year to meet professors and learn about academic programs.