Upward Bound Celebrates 50 Years! Part Three

In this series, we will spotlight Upward Bound students, staff, and partners as we celebrate 50 years of the program at Appalachian State University. These conversations are meant to illustrate the legacy of the program on some of the many western North Carolinians impacted by Upward Bound. This is the third post in our series. To read more about the golden anniversary of Upward Bound, visit our website.


Since its inception in 1972, the Upward Bound Program (UB) at Appalachian State has served thousands of students and relied on the experience, expertise, compassion, and integrity of dozens of program staff. These UB coordinators and academic advisors work diligently to meet with students to inspire and support them during their pathways to and through postsecondary education. 

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Upward Bound at Appalachian State University, we are highlighting the importance and impact of the program. These posts include candid conversations with people directly involved with Upward Bound as they speak to how the program impacted them personally. Our next conversation is with a former Upward Bound staff member, Matt Ruble. He describes the importance of relationship-building and connections that the Upward Bound program creates across its network of staff, participants, families, and alumni. 

Please describe your experiences with Upward Bound. 

I worked for UB from October 2001 until October 2009. I interviewed for UB over the phone, and in a dorm room from Warwick University in the U.K. and was hired as a counselor from the program (owing to my previous professional experience in community mental health). My start was delayed owing to the 9/11 attacks as I was still in England at the time. I left UB in the fall of 2009 to pursue a Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Tennessee. As I like to joke, I tell my students now that 'I once actually did social justice. Now I teach about it.'

What are some memories you have of the program? What stories do you remember?

My keenest memories of UB are all the students that I now miss, love, and am proud of. I also was closely affiliated with the SAGE program for rising seniors, and the backpacking trip of the summer of 2003 is forever seared into my memory. It rained throughout the entire week-long backpacking trip, and the intrepid UB students never once considered stopping early. We were so happy being together that little else mattered. So we huddled tight under a single tarp and told stories about our past and how we would all one day tell this story, too. My other enduring memory is my former colleague Clinton Marsh and the wonderful relationship we had. Working with a true brother makes even the long summer hours fly by. We even found a way to have fun completing the APR every November. 

 What is the impact of Upward Bound on you? 

I am fortunate to be back in Boone where I routinely run into old UB’ers and am afforded a living reminder of the joyful connection we have from UB. That is UBs personal legacy to me. I'm a part of that community, and the UB community specifically from Appalachian has a long intergenerational story to tell. I too hold a chapter in the Appalachian UB story, just as UB claims a central chapter to my story.  

What do you perceive the legacy of Upward Bound to be?

I see UB on a national level as a very important reminder of the power of compassionate legislation. In legislative terms, the benefit of this small economic investment in UB speaks for itself. But we gained so much more. We also made a community of it. 


Matt Ruble served as a member of the Upward Bound staff in the early 2000s. He's pictured here with his dog, Red. 


Matt Ruble
Published: Mar 9, 2022 12:00am