(L-R front row): SIUE Collinsville Upward Bound Math and Science (UBMS) seniors America Gutierrez-Trejo, Sierra Hoffmann and Claudia De La Cruz (L-R back row): UBMS student Donald Thomas, UBMS Program Counselor Coordinator, Melissa Bidinger and UBMS Program Director Desiree Tyus.Four Collinsville High School seniors, recipients of a total of $84,200 in scholarships, are headed to college this fall, thanks in part to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville East St. Louis Center’s Collinsville Upward Bound Math and Science (UBMS) program.

Three of the Collinsville upperclassmen – Claudia De La Cruz, Sierra Hoffmann and America Gutierrez-Trejo – have selected SIUE as their college of choice, according to UBMS Program Director Desiree Tyus. UBMS student Donald Thomas, of Pontoon Beach, is enrolling in the University of Illinois Champaign – Urbana.

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“I am extremely proud of our four seniors, as well as our other UBMS students,” said Tyus. “Despite all of the obstacles, this year highlighted the resiliency of our students. Our seniors not only persevered, but excelled in their academics and grew in their character development.”

“UBMS is designed to support eligible high school students in becoming academically and socially/emotionally prepared to pursue and complete a four-year college education in a STEM-related career field,” she added.

“Before joining the Upward Bound Math and Science program, I had no idea what I was going to do after high school. UBMS gave me the opportunity to explore so many different careers,” said De La Cruz, who plans to major in industrial engineering. She has a 4.43 GPA and has earned $24,235 in scholarships. “The program allowed me to meet and ask questions of people working in careers I was interested in, which helped me come to a decision. I also learned how to be successful in college. Their support has given me the confidence to be an engineer.”

Hoffman plans to major in wildlife biology. “I love animals and the environment, and I decided to combine the two,” she said. “UBMS helped me strengthen my skills and gave me opportunities to meet new people, all while helping me toward my journey to college.” Hoffman has a 3.75 GPA and $22,835 in scholarships.

“UBMS helped me over the roof! The program exposed me to different careers, and encouraged me to go above and beyond. It also helped me with my networking skills. I’ve met so many great, new people,” added Guitierrez-Trejo, who has 3.41 GPA and $1,500 in scholarships. She will start at Southwestern Illinois College (SWIC) and transfer to SIUE.

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“UBMS showed me that college is not something to fear,” said Thomas. “It is something to prepare for in order to have the best experience possible.” Thomas, who has a 3.95 GPA and $35,630 in scholarships, plans to major in integrative biology. “I want to use my natural talent for mathematics for something not traditionally connected to math. I want to use data to address problems, such as pollution and climate change.”

“Our seniors have been shining stars,” said UBMS Program Counselor Coordinator Melissa Bidinger. “They are intelligent, driven leaders, and I am so grateful to have worked with these four students! It is no shock to me that all our seniors are going to their dream colleges with significant scholarships. I am proud of everything they have achieved and am extremely excited to see what they accomplish in college.”

All of the UBMS seniors were recognized during the program’s End of the Year Showcase/Award Ceremony at Collinsville High School on Tuesday, April 27. De La Cruz was named UBMS student of the year.

“The Student of the Year award is not given solely to seniors,” Tyus said of De La Cruz’s win. “It is for any UBMS participant who has utilized our resources and services the most, as well as maintained a competitive GPA while pursuing a rigorous math and/ or science coursework.”

UBMS participants were recognized in 11 different award categories, some of which included:

  • Students who completed 100% of their grade-level individual learning plans for staying on track for college
  • Highest attendance/program participation per grade level
  • Highest GPA per grade level
  • Students who attended SAT bootcamp

“This year, our staff was challenged to think outside of the box to create and deliver meaningful, impactful programming,” said Tyus. “Like educators around the world, we have had our share of challenges to contend with during the pandemic. Still, we were able to successfully engage our students through building STEM kits for participants to pick-up and complete at home during Zoom instruction. Our ability to ramp up our hands-on learning experiences, be compassionately flexible, conduct weekly one-on-one check-ins with counselors, expose them to STEM professionals, conduct home visits as needed and develop safe spaces for students to reflect, breathe and relax all positively contributed towards our students’ success.”

The seniors are looking forward to an extension of regular UBMS services, through their participation in the Summer Bridge program at SIUE. “Upward Bound pays all expenses, including tuition, travel, room and board, an end-of-summer stipend, as well as a laptop for their collegiate-level courses,” added Tyus. “Our graduates will continue to work closely with their UBMS counselor, receive individualized assistance, reside in a freshman residence hall, participate in STEM-related field trips, visit various SIUE departments and take a course instructed by SIUE faculty. This simulated college experience is designed to ease the transition from high school to college.”

The SIUE Upward Bound Math & Science (UBMS) program helps youth prepare for higher education and serves students from Collinsville. Participants receive instruction in literature, advanced mathematics and science during the school day, homework assistance and hands-on STEM workshops twice a week after school, and cultural, career and college preparation on Saturdays. During the summer, students participate in a six-week residential program that allows participants to reside on Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s campus and undergo college preparedness. Services provided prepare students for successful high school completion and entrance into post-secondary programs. The program is designed to serve low-income and/or potential first-generation college students who are currently in grades 9-12. For more information about how you can get involved in our program, please visit us at collinsvilleubms.com.

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