Miami University Hamilton staff to work with Hamilton High School students
Miami University Hamilton staff to work with Hamilton High School students

Miami Regionals awarded $1.28 million Upward Bound grant

Hamilton High School

New Upward Bound grant to support 60 students. (Photo courtesy of Hamilton Schools.)

Miami University Regionals received a five-year U.S. Department of Education Upward Bound Grant to work with students in Hamilton City Schools.

For the first year, the grant will dispense $256,996 and will be renewed annually for another four years. The total amount of the grant is $1,284,980.

The grant will be facilitated by Sue Sepela, regional senior director of learning assistance, and the Tutoring and Learning Center on the Hamilton campus. Sepela and Amy Stander, regional director of grant development, applied for the grant last fall with assistance from leaders at Hamilton City Schools.

“It’s a unique grant for us, because we’re working very closely with grade 9-12 students over their high school career. We’ll even have project staff housed in the high school and ninth-grade building,” said Stander.

Sepela’s office will hire a program director and an adviser who will recruit and support 60 students throughout the school year. Over the summer, those students will also attend a six-week college-like program at the Hamilton campus. In addition to traditional academic subjects, the students will learn about fitness, nutrition, current events and civic engagement.

“The Upward Bound program gives us the opportunity to build on the momentum started by all the concerned citizens and by the team at Hamilton High School - principal John Wilhelm, career development coordinator Ms. Zelene Miller, and by counselor Amy Bijas, through the Hamilton Foundation’s YES program,” said Sepela.

The current student-to-counselor ratio at Hamilton High School is 325 to 1. The Upward Bound students will check in with their coach at least once per week, have help organizing their academic life, and then have access to the academic and non-academic supports ideally to prevent crises from occurring as they prepare for college.

“We submitted the most proactive plan we could,” said Sepela. “We’re asking every student to wear a Fitbit and exercise. The program has budgeted money for healthy snacks and healthy lunches. We’re working with our Conservatory on the Hamilton campus to help us start a community garden and a healthy cooking class. Sarah Woiteshek and the Center for Civic Engagement will lead Real Talk and our students will do civic engagement activities. And the Department of Education liked all of it.”

The Regionals already support college-aged students with other grants from the US Department of Education. A grant for Student Support Services targets low-income, first-generation college students once they’re enrolled in college.

“We anticipate that some students will graduate from the Upward Bound community and enter the Student Support Services community,” added Stander.

A third US Department of Education grant subsidizes student-parents’ child care costs to allow them to afford college and to have time to study.

“The City of Hamilton continues to experience transformative changes,” said Cathy Bishop-Clark, interim dean of the Regionals’ College of Liberal Arts and Applied Sciences. “The winning of this grant from the Department of Education continues that positive momentum by providing unique educational opportunities for those individual who are the future of our community.”