Two Fayette County Upward Bound students competed in the speech category at this summer’s Upward Bound Olympics, according to Jennifer Bunner, director of the WVU Tech Upward Bound program.

Josiah Baker, a student at Oak Hill High School, and Sierra Clark, of Midland Trail High School, represented the Tech program.

The Upward Bound Olympics program is held each summer. Students from all 10 of the state’s Upward Bound programs come together to enjoy a day filled with games, activities and competition on one of the program campuses. The 2019 program was held June 26 at West Virginia State University in Institute.

Following are the speeches delivered by the Fayette County students in the oratory competition.

Theme: “A Country Without TRIO Programs”

Subtitle: Education Serves Opportunities

By Josiah Baker

Close your eyes. Put a smile on your face, and imagine yourself in a brand new pair of Lebrons. Realize you would look stupid in them. Only Lebron can wear Lebron’s shoes. Open your eyes, and keep smiling.

Many of you think that in a way, I am forcing you to smile, and you’re exactly right. I am giving you the opportunity to do something that most of you might not be doing during the time that I am giving this speech.

“But, Josiah... Smiling has nothing to do with TRIO!”

Yes, it does.

During your time as TRIO students, you are completing tasks everyday that 95 percent of American public high school students either don’t have the opportunity to do so or aren’t up for the challenge to complete the TRIO program, in this case Upward Bound.

Opportunities are handed to us at every Upward Bound event, and no other country can experience the opportunities that are handed to us. TRIO serves education opportunities to low-income families, first-generation college students and students with disabilities in sixth grade through college graduation. A country without TRIO programs would cause a larger income gap in the nation. Students would be less knowledgeable of what education is and what college has to offer.

Because of Upward Bound, I have had the same opportunities as those with a higher financial income. Without Upward Bound, I would be more prone to unfamiliar lingo in higher education simply because my family lives in a predominantly black community in East End Oak Hill, which is a predominantly white town, and on top of that, my family is financially unstable.

There are eight TRIO programs that provide academic tutoring, personal counseling, mentoring, financial guidance and other supports necessary for educational access and retention. You take away all TRIO programs, you also take away the 840,000 students TRIO serves to each year. A country without TRIO programs lacks the educational opportunities that are offered in the States, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Islands (Cal State LA Upward Bound/TRIO).

We are members of the Upward Bound program who experience everything from math classes to Appalachian tours, from lessons about table etiquette to checks in the mail. Remember what Angela Bassett says, and I quote, “Don’t be afraid to do it all. Whatever you’re interested in, just go for it. Don’t wait for a better time.”

As Upward Bound students, we need to take hold of the opportunities that we are given at all times, and with that recipe, we can change the world. Thank you.

Theme: “A Country Without TRIO Programs”

Subtitle: Education Serves Opportunities

By Sierra Clark

College, a college degree. Many Americans take this opportunity for granted. Many kids have parents who have graduated from college and are able to provide the next step for them. Many kids grow up knowing they would attend college after high school.

I am here to talk about those who did not. So, this goes out to the braggers, the kids that have the best hair and nicest homes. Imagine for a minute that you are not able to go to school to follow through with your dream that you have held onto since you were in kindergarten. You have always wanted to be a doctor, but because the resources aren’t there to pay for your college tuition, that dream will always remain just that.

This is the reality of most kids’ lives today. Right now, only 38 percent of low-income high school seniors go straight to college as compared to the 81 percent of their peers in the highest income quartile (U.S. Department of Education).

College means more than just the paper degree that provides a decent job opportunity. College represents the hope that you will be better tomorrow than you are today.

In America we have a program called TRIO. In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson was fighting the War on Poverty. Through that he founded TRIO.

This program has allowed kids with disadvantaged backgrounds to be able to pursue their career past high school. Lyndon Johnson stated, “Unfortunately, many Americans live on the outskirts of hope... Our task is to help replace their despair with opportunity.”

TRIO has eight different programs in it, one of which is Upward Bound. It offers a summer program to help prepare kids who want to go to college. For instance, living in a residence hall, and having both roommates and suitemates, just like a college student. Going to classes and studying, while balancing friendships that could last a lifetime. Also, while in this program, they help you find the financial aid that you need to make going to college a reality.

TRIO opens opportunities for you that you otherwise never would have been given. So, looking in at what this program does for those low-income families, could you imagine what it would be like in a country without this program? I know that without it, I wouldn’t be planning for my future so early on. There would be a sense of hopelessness amongst those who aspire to go to college. Without TRIO, more and more people would rely on government assistance.

Right now, America is the only country with these types of programs. It shows if you look at other countries, without programs like TRIO, you will see the college attendance rate is low, and the student debt is much worse, discouraging students from considering college as an option.

In conclusion, I am more than that 38 percent.

I am more than poverty and low-income.

I am more than denominations of ones, fives, 10s, and 20s.

I believe if I lived somewhere and this was not offered to me, I wouldn’t be able to go on and look at colleges, let alone being able to afford it.

In a speech given by Viola Davis reflecting on her time as a member of TRIO, she says her mentors told her, “All I can do is show you the road.”

Let us be shown. Let us utilize something that works.

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