Arabic, financial literacy, ACT preparation and good study habits aren't classes you find at either of Carter County's high schools.
But for a group of about 50 Carter students, those classes are a reality, thanks to Upward Bound.
The program is federally-funded and serves high school students from low-income families and high school students from families in which neither parent holds a bachelor's degree.
According to its website, the goal of Upward Bound is to increase the rate at which participants complete secondary education and enroll in and graduate from institutions of postsecondary education.
Both East and West Carter high schools are served through the program at Morehead State University, one of the first institutions to be funded in the early 1960s.
“Students in this program see an increase in their high school GPA and are statistically more successful when they go to college,” said Chris Prichard said.
He has been with Upward Bound for five years, two as a full-time counselor for Carter, Morgan and Magoffin county schools.
“We have a long waiting list at both schools, because we can't take more students over our funded number,” Prichard said. “I hate to turn students away but we have been at level funding since 2007.”
And the students are very aware of the opportunities the program gives them.
“It prepares you for college life and you get a few college classes out of the way,” said Bradley Blackburn, a junior at East, during last week's Upward Bound meeting. “We stay on campus during the summer to take classes and it really helped me come out of my shell. Before, I was one of the most anti-social people you could meet.”
The group was learning about financial literacy during that meeting, which most teens don't think about before college.
“Pretty soon we will be moving out on our own, so we need to be prepared for taking care of ourselves,” said Heaven McCown. “I think society has lower expectations for us (students in Appalachia) but we are showing them we can shine.”
Junior Samantha Mullins said she likes the one-on-one interaction with instructors.
“In Upward Bound, the teacher's main priority is the student,” Mullins said.
“I had Arabic last summer and the teachers really helped us understand, said junior Nina Barber. “We had a smaller class and the teacher had more time to work with us. They actually cared about our success.”
But the most obvious benefit for these students is the boost in self-esteem that comes from having a group of like-minded friends.
“The best part is meeting new people and making new friends,” said Janice Henry, the group’s only freshman. “Not everyone has this opportunity, so we are getting the most we can.”
Leeann Akers Can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 474-5101.