$1.4M grant for new JMU Upward Bound Program aims to help underrepresented students prepare for college

JMU College of Education program will empower first-generation college and at-risk local students to unlock potential

JMU News

Harrisonburg, Virginia – James Madison University’s College of Education will receive $1.4 million over the next five years to help eligible high school students in the Shenandoah Valley overcome social, emotional, and academic barriers to achieve success in education beyond high school.

JMU will receive a total of $1,437,685 to create a JMU Upward Bound Program. The funds will support two programs, one at Harrisonburg High School in Harrisonburg City Public Schools and one at Spotswood High School in Rockingham County Public Schools, supporting a total of approximately 30-35 high school students at each school.  

Once a student is selected to participate, they will continue to receive Upward Bound services throughout their high school career including tutoring and instruction in math, laboratory science, composition, literature, and foreign language.

The goal of the program, first, is to help first-generation college students and at-risk students find academic success and graduate from high school. Second, the program encourages enrollment and graduation from post-secondary education.   

“Education changes lives, and every child – regardless of circumstances – deserves the opportunity to strive for college,” said James Madison University Vice Provost for Student Academic Success and Enrollment Management Rudy M. Molina. “These funds help give disadvantaged students in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County the resources they need to pursue education opportunities beyond high school.”  

Upward Bound, a federally funded program under the U.S. Department of Education, is one of eight Federal TRIO programs, offering outreach and student service programs specially designed for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

These programs serve and assist eligible high school students who are from low-income families; and high school students from families in which neither parent holds a bachelor’s degree, to help them progress through the academic pipeline to postsecondary education programs. 

“A student’s educational opportunities should not be limited by their financial situation, family history or disadvantaged backgrounds,” said Dr. Amanda Sawyer, an Associate Professor of Mathematics Education at JMU, who will oversee the program. “This program aims to support local students who want to succeed in higher education but may not have the opportunity to do so on their own.” 

The Upward Bound program is consistent with JMU’s hallmark academic mission of fostering student success through providing holistic academic support services and career-readiness tools to students through specially designed services and programs.   

Students in the program participate in weekly tutoring, monthly activities, and a summer program. Additionally, students have an opportunity to earn monthly and summer stipends throughout the year. 

The program aims to build on the success of JMU’s already well-established early academic outreach initiatives, such as the Professors in Residence and  Valley Scholars program, to increase access to postsecondary education opportunities by supporting local students through public-private partnerships. 


Contact: Clay Sutton, suttoncd@jmu.edu, (540) 236-8227

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by Clay Sutton

Published: Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Last Updated: Tuesday, April 2, 2024

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