The Upward Bound program at Missouri Southern State University has been approved for a grant of more than $1.6 million to fund the program for the next five years.

The grant from the U.S. Department of Education will award $334,232 per year for five years – for a total of $1,671,160.

The program provides academic support to prepare high-school students for post-secondary education. It serves nearly 70 students from the Joplin, Carl Junction, Webb City, Carthage and East Newton school districts.

For students participating in the program, Upward Bound offers a variety of services designed to help them prepare for a successful transition into college, said Robin Hicklin, director of the Missouri Southern program.

“We offer monthly workshops on campus covering topics such as career counseling, life skills and the college application and scholarship process,” he said. “We also make school visits, check grades and offer tutoring services.

“During the summer, we do a simulated college experience for five weeks. The students live in the dorms, attend classes and take a cultural trip. This summer we’re going to Nashville for five days.”

Hicklin said the students participating in Upward Bound will primarily be first-generation college students and many come from low-income families.

“The literature shows that the (college) success rate is about 18 percent for students from this background,” he said. “Since I’ve been here, we see a 45 to 60-percent success rate. Even those who don’t graduate often choose a career and break the poverty cycle. It’s a huge steppingstone for a lot of these kids.”

Upward Bound was established by the federal Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 and the Higher Education Act of 1965. It was considered part of U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty program. The MSSU Upward Bound program has been actively serving students from Southwest Missouri since 1999.