Lack of funding brings end to local Upward Bound program

By DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer

Published: 01-11-2023 7:41 PM

GREENFIELD — The local Upward Bound program that in 2021 moved from Northfield Mount Hermon School to Greenfield Community College announced on Tuesday that a lack of federal funding is forcing its closure after roughly 55 years of serving college-bound students in western Massachusetts.

A post on GCC Upward Bound’s Facebook page stated the transfer to the community college resulted in a loss of “prior experience points,” which are added to final grant scores to ensure programs that demonstrated success in achieving Upward Bound goals and objectives continue to be funded.

“Program staff petitioned to get these points back, but the federal government refused to release the points to GCC. Without those points, it became virtually impossible to secure funding,” the post states. “We had hoped to continue providing services through alternative sources of grant funding, but this type of programming is not sustainable at GCC.”

The Facebook post thanked all past and present Upward Bound scholars for their commitment and hard work.

Shelburne resident Michael Tombs was an Upward Bound student for four years before serving as a tutor for two. He described Upward Bound as a yearlong after-school program that includes an intensive summer camp preparing students for the next school year or helping them apply to colleges.

“It’s really sad. It’s a program specially designed for lower-income, first-generation college students,” he said.

Tombs, who grew up in Millers Falls, said his middle school French teacher recommended the program to him. Tombs said his life likely would have turned out very differently had he not enrolled. He had expected to join the military out of Turners Falls High School but his involvement in Upward Bound changed his trajectory to Beloit College in southern Wisconsin. The 34-year-old now works for EXPLORE Inc., which organizes programs and safaris in Africa.

“I don’t think I would have this job without (Upward Bound),” Tombs said.

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The local program switched locations in a move announced in July 2021 by GCC’s then-President Yves Salomon-Fernández and NMH Head of School Brian Hargrove, who said the shift would ensure the continuation of Upward Bound’s “vital mission of supporting the college aspirations of underserved high school students in western Massachusetts.” The program served nearly 90 public school students each year from Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden counties, including Greenfield, Holyoke, Springfield and surrounding towns.

Upward Bound was launched in the mid-1960s as one of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society programs.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.

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