USC Sumter's Upward Bound grant program building at Manning High


It's been a lot of work, but University of South Carolina Sumter and Manning High School are starting to see fruit from their first year of a five-year grant partnership to help disadvantaged students succeed in high school and beyond.

Officials from the college spoke this week on implementation of a $1.3 million federal Upward Bound grant to help 60 Manning High students a year succeed in college-preparatory coursework and then through their college years.

Lisa Rosdail, USC Sumter's Upward Bound program director, said the initial year has been about building relationships at the high school and building program staff.

Initially, she and an administrative assistant at the college had to recruit the 60 interested students who fit the grant's profile. Forty, or two-thirds, of the 60 students in grades 9-12 had to be both low-income and potentially first-generation college students. The other 20, or one-third, had to be either low income, or potentially first-generation college students, or display a high academic need, Rosdail said.

An important piece to the puzzle, according to Rosdail, has been ensuring the Upward Bound students are enrolled in high school courses that meet college-entrance requirements and not just high school graduation requirements.

For example, she said, a student can graduate high school without taking a foreign language, but a college is expecting a high school student to take a foreign language and other rigorous coursework for entry.

A group of nine USC Sumter students have served as rotating after-school tutors for the Manning High students -- generally in the core subjects of math, English, the sciences and foreign languages. Students are currently being tutored in preparation for state End-of-Course tests and final exams, Rosdail said.

In March, the program hired a student advisor, Kyndall Locklear, who is located on site at the high school and provides guidance for the 60 students. In April, the college hired a program coordinator, Steve Evans, who manages the program's day-to-day operations.

In addition to tutoring, the first year has included two cultural event trips for students, a trip to the USS Yorktown in Charleston and to Ripley's Aquarium in Myrtle Beach.

Evans said the new program looks to recruit students with about a 2.5 GPA or higher and tries to help students improve on that with the end goal of a 3.0 GPA, so they're eligible for South Carolina's HOPE Scholarship or LIFE Scholarship when applying for college.

Of the 60 students in the initial year, there's just one senior, Heidi Salinas. Salinas will graduate from Manning High next month and will begin her college freshman year at USC Sumter in the fall, according to Rosdail.

As far as an ideal high school student for the program, Rosdail said it's someone who wants to take the more rigorous college-bound coursework and wants to get the after-school help and tutoring.

"It doesn't have to be somebody who is making straight 'A's," Rosdail said. "It's the student who wants the services and help, and is willing to put in the time to get the help so they can really end up going to college."

For more information on Manning High's Upward Bound program, contact USC Sumter's Upward Bound office at (803) 938-3929.