by Hector Arzate
While many have argued that Trump’s policy agenda could negatively affect the lives of all Americans, the Center for American Progress found that his budget would harm employment, health, education, housing, and safety services for most rural communities, small towns, and tribal nations. It’s likely that a cut to these services would have an immediate impact on the local community in Humboldt.
As one of the oldest TRIO programs in the state of California, Upward Bound at HSU has served six different high schools in the local area of Humboldt and Trinity County for almost 50 years, including Arcata High School, Hoopa Valley High School and Trinity High School.
Leo Canez, the Academic Coordinator of Upward Bound at HSU, outlined what students are able to do during their pre-college experience.
“We have the summer academy, a residential experience here at Humboldt State University,” Canez said. “About 35 students live in the residential dorms for five weeks, beginning at the end of June and going all the way until the end of July. They study Shakespeare for their literature course, they have a composition course, a math course and this year they’re studying entomology for their science course. They also have different electives offered. This year we have Greek and Latin origins, street art, self defense and acroyoga.”
Although the proposal’s name is meant to signal change for greatness, some would argue that a 15 percent cut to the Dept. of Education is a far cry from prosperity. The aptly named “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again” outlines budget cuts to several U.S departments for the fiscal year of 2018, including the Dept. of Education.
The Council for Opportunity in Education estimates that the proposed budget cut would result in a $92 million or 10 percent decrease in funding for TRIO for the fiscal year of 2018-2019, which would effectively eliminate services like Upward Bound for nearly 83,000 students.
While it certainly has an emphasis on the academics, UB tries to create a more well rounded experience for students to have fun, while learning how to be responsible scholars.
“With this program, we have a lot of social activities on the other side of the academics,” Canez said. “We go camping on the Klamath River, we have a masquerade ball, ice cream social, casino night, all these different activities on the weekends and the evenings because they’re here the entire time. So they have to balance, if there’s a swim night happening but they also have homework, they have to take care of it first.”
Harrel Deshazier, psychology major, and former Upward Bound resident mentor, found that he was able to provide multiple sources of support for his students and be a part of rewarding experience for both himself and his students.
“We’re not just doing academic stuff,” Deshazier said. “I’ve never done that many things in a summer, ever in my life. We went camping, on picnics, we went to Oregon for the Shakespeare festival. It was so great because all of them were into it… It just goes to show that underrepresented populations really have so much ability, it’s just the access.”
In order to prepare disadvantaged students, UB aims to bridge the gap that first generation students students have to deal with before arriving as college freshmen.
“They come from families that are low income and neither parent has a four year degree,” Canez said. “So they’re low income, first generation and there aren’t very many resources out there at these schools to provide students with information that they need for things like A-G requirements, SAT/ACT prep, making sure that they choose the right classes, and manage their time. I think that’s one of the biggest things, students being able to manage their time, especially when you come from communities where the kids have a lot of adult responsibilities.”
As a local student at Hoopa Valley High School and alumnus of the TRIO program, Canez always had a natural sense of curiosity and want to learn, but didn’t really value education.
“If it wasn’t for Upward Bound I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Canez said. “My mom finished the sixth grade before she stopped going to school and my father almost finished high school but he had to go to Vietnam. He didn’t finish school, he actually went into the military. They didn’t really excel in school and I didn’t have role models within my own home. As I grew up, they split up and between my third grade year to my freshman year in high school I went to 18 different schools. My goal was to drop out my sophomore year and become a mechanic, that’s all that I saw for myself and my future. I didn’t have anybody in my family who went to college or had any kind of experience with it, so I didn’t think that it was an option for me.”
Despite all impediments along the way, however, Canez began to value learning even more and found that there were more options than he could ever imagine.
“After my freshman year, I was living with a cousin in a laundry room,” Canez said. “I had a thin, little mattress on the floor where they moved the washer and dryer out and the roof would be leaking. When the Upward Bound staff came to my school and said I had to take classes, it wasn’t a big deal for me because I liked learning. But the kicker for me was that I would have a bed, three meals a day, and all I had to do was some school work over the summer and it would be a safe place to be. So that was a no brainer for me.”
While Canez’s story is unique, it’s a similar story that many students from a first generation, low-income background who come through the UB program share.
“We have the saying that, ‘UB lets you be you,’” Canez said. “It allows you for the first time to truly be who are and that’s what this program is all about… You’re surrounded by adults who want to help you realize your dream and we’ll do everything we can to help you figure out what that is. The entire staff, from the mentors to teachers to the administrative staff, we find out what seed is there in each one of our students’ heart and help it flourish.”