NVCC Upward Bound Program Celebrates Waterbury Public School Graduates and Begins Summer Program | Read the Latest News from NVCC | Naugatuck Valley Community College

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20 July 2020

NVCC Upward Bound Program Celebrates Waterbury Public School Graduates and Begins Summer Program

NVCC Upward Bound Program Celebrates Waterbury Public School Graduates and Begins Summer Program

In October 2019, Connecticut was awarded a seven-year, $25.8 million Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Naugatuck Valley Community College was named one of three Connecticut community colleges to collaborate with local public schools to implement the program. NVCC in partnership with Waterbury Public Schools works to accomplish the GEAR UP goal, which is to help students prepare for the rigors of a college education.  

With GEAR UP funding, NVCC and the Waterbury public schools, work with students starting in seventh grade to increase the number of low-income students prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. Through this alliance, students from high-need areas receive early college awareness and support activities like tutoring, mentoring, academic preparation, financial education, and college scholarships to improve access to higher education for low income, minority and disadvantaged first-generation students and their families. This round of GEAR UP funding continues through 2026. 

In 2012, Connecticut was awarded a seven-year, $31.5 million GEAR UP grant, of which the city of Waterbury received $11.2 million. Since 2012, Naugatuck Valley Community College (NVCC) had served as fiduciary for Waterbury, administering the grant through its Bridge to College Office.  Under the program, students saw steady progress in preparing low income and underserved students for academic success through high school and successful enrollment in postsecondary education.  

NVCC’s Upward Bound (UB) programs with Wilby, Kennedy, and Crosby High Schools in Waterbury have been actively engaged in a wide range of virtual activities since COVID hit this spring.

The four UB programs with Waterbury public schools include 2 at Crosby High School- UB Math/Science and UB Crosby, as well as UB Kennedy, and UB Wilby.  All four celebrated their 2020 graduation in a virtual on Friday, June 19, 2020.  To prepare for the ceremony Upward Bound staff greeted students and family members on the NVCC campus on Thursday, June 18 to distribute graduation cords, t-shirts, window signs, and meal vouchers. The celebration included a slideshow presentation recognizing each of the 92 graduates with their photo and the college/university they will be attending in the fall.  It concluded with students draping the graduation cords over their shoulders in unison with 19 seniors from UB Crosby, 24 seniors from UBMS Crosby, 28 seniors from UB Kennedy, and 21 seniors from UB Wilby.

Following the commencement UB staff have planned two engaging three-week virtual summer program sessions with approximately 30 students in each cohort. With the timely and relevant theme of Global Citizenship, the program will include project-based academic enrichment curriculum, student engagement activities (Literary Magazine, STEM Project, and an Ancestry Project), wellness activities, and virtual cultural events.

Since the program is virtual, UB staff is working with a local Waterbury restaurant (Art of Yum) to have five meal packs (breakfast, snack, lunch) delivered to each students’ home on Monday of each week. The program will offer guest speakers and presenters and culminate with an afternoon of students sharing their academic and student engagement projects.

The Upward Bound Virtual Summer Program, held over two three-week sessions is well underway. The first session ran from Monday, 7/6 through Friday, 7/24. The second session will run from Monday, 7/27 through Friday, 8/14.

NVCC President Daisy Cocco De Filippis commented. “On this first day of the program I want to say that we are so proud of you, dear students, for taking this significant step toward a better future. You are affirming with your presence, your belief in education and your belief in your own capacity to move forward despite significant challenges brought by this pandemic. NVCC is your home, go forward to help in making this a better world.”

Lisa Dresdner, Ph.D., Dean of Academic Affairs, commented on the program. “I’m delighted to know how our Upward Bound programs are engaging the students at Crosby, Kennedy, and Wilby High Schools! I’m confident the focus on Global Citizenship and project-based learning activities will enrich the students’ lives and make this a summer they’ll remember.”

Tim Magee, Bridge to College Director, NVCC oversees the programs. “The last few months brought many challenges, but we were able to see the opportunities and we’ve learned a lot about what is at the core of our work; connection, collaboration and building community. Focusing the summer program on Global Citizenship and utilizing engaging technology has generated interest and excitement for both students and staff.”

Ondri Enwerem, UBMS Crosby Mentor and STEM Summer Instructor, commented. “We've managed to continue to provide meaningful opportunities and strengthen our relationships with our students despite being entirely virtual. This experience has reaffirmed the resiliency of this community and Waterbury students.”


Lisa Dresdner, Ph.D., Dean of Academic Affairs, commented on the program. “I’m delighted to know how our Upward Bound programs are engaging the students at Crosby, Kennedy, and Wilby High Schools! I’m confident the focus on Global Citizenship and project-based learning activities will enrich the students’ lives and make this a summer they’ll remember.”

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