Upward Bound Celebrates 50 Years! Part Two

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 second post in our series. To read more about the golden anniversary of Upward Bound, visit our website.

The Upward Bound Program (UB) at Appalachian State was established in 1972 and is designed to encourage 9th through 12th grade students in Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Freedom, McDowell, Watauga, and West Wilkes high schools to complete high school and enroll in, persist, and complete a program of postsecondary education. The Appalachian State Upward Bound Program has served thousands of  students since its inception, and the program would not be possible without the hundreds of summer instructors who teach and support Upward Bound students during the yearly Summer Academy. 

 The Upward Bound Summer Academy typically brings more than 100 Upward Bound students to the Appalachian State University campus for a 6-week immersive college experience. Academic classes are offered to all students, and depending on the student grade level, the lessons vary in difficulty and subject matter. Upward Bound instructors fill a unique role and serve a critical need in the program.  These educators understand that a student's educational journey does not take a pause the moment they step out of a classroom.  Rather, they capitalize on the opportunity to make each student's education relevant to their lives by creating meaningful, interesting, and challenging experiences during the summer academy.  The majority of UB instructors have been with the program for more than a decade.  Their commitment to each student's success can be witnessed first-hand as they work with classes to form bonds among peers as well as connections to various disciplines that further advance the creative spirit of each UB student. 

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Upward Bound at Appalachian State University, we want to highlight the importance and impact of the program. The posts shared during the next several months 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 long-time Upward Bound instructor, Tom Roberts. He speaks about his two decade career inspiring students with his passion for science. 

Please describe your experiences with Upward Bound. 

My work with Upward Bound began over twenty years ago. Myself, a biology teacher from Avery County, and one of the biology professors from Appalachian State University put the curriculum together. The following summer, I began teaching the course and have done so every summer since.

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

My most favorite memories are of the kids during labs, dissections, and field trips. Seeing them become interested in living systems, and the creatures of the woods and streams was an enjoyment. Extracting DNA from strawberries, dissecting earthworms, grasshoppers, and frogs, seeing the stoneflies, caddis flies, and mayflies always created tons of ‘What is this?’ questions.

 What is the impact of Upward Bound on you ? 

I taught biology for forty years in the public school system.  I taught the freshman biology class in our community college for twenty five years, and I have taught the biology program in Upward Bound for more than that.  I think creating opportunities to learn and see kids become excited about life’s intricacies was most fulfilling.

One of my fond memories with Upward Bound came back in the early 90’s. One of my summer tenth grade biology students graduated from high school, then majored in English at Appalachian, and later she became an instructor in the summer program! That’s Upward Bound going full circle!

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

I believe the most enjoyable piece in working with the Upward Bound Program is the total commitment to create fascinating and enjoyable learning experiences that the administration and instructors all share.




Biology instructor Tom Robers has taught Upward Bound students for over twenty years as part of the yearly summer academy. 


Tom Roberts, Upward Bound Biology Instructor
Published: Jan 5, 2022 12:00am