- Michael D. Clark Staff Writer
One of the largest regional college federal grants in years is headed to Miami University Hamilton to fund a joint city schools program to help hundreds of high school students in need, the Journal-News has exclusively learned.
The $1.3 million “Upward Bound” federal grant is the largest of its kind at either of Miami’s two regional campuses since 2010 and will create a variety of programs at Hamilton City Schools designed to prepare low-income students for college and careers.
“Our primary goal is to prepare high school students so that they will be successful in college and beyond,” said Sue Sepela, senior director of Tutoring and Learning Centers at Miami Regionals.
“It’s a unique grant for us, because we’re working very closely with grade 9-12 students over their (Hamilton) high school career. We’ll even have project staff housed in the high school and ninth-grade building,” she said.
“This Upward Bound (UB) grant will enable us provide supports for (low-income) students who might not have the supports built in. The current student to counselor ratio is 325 students to 1. That’s rough. The UB students will check in with their coach at least once per week, have help organizing their academic life, and then have access to the academic and non-academic supports just in time, before crisis point,” Sepela said.
Tony Orr, superintendent of the 9,900-student Hamilton school system, praised the five-year grant — $256,996 annually — and the Miami University Hamilton partnership in helping the city district do more for those students who need more to succeed in school.
“We are excited to collaborate with Miami to implement this $1.3 million Upward Bound grant,” Orr said.
“The school district understands the importance of partnerships which benefit our students and community and we commend the teamwork between members of Miami University Regionals and Hamilton High School to create this successful grant proposal,” he said of the grant application submitted to the U.S. Department of Education last fall.
“This five-year grant will impact 300 of our high school students as we address academic improvements and support them in order for them to pass all state-mandated tests. The grant will also teach necessary skills for our students’ future success and teaches them elements of health, nutrition, and civic engagement,” he said.
Sepela said the program will hire a director and adviser to “recruit and support 60 students throughout the school year and then over the summer (2018) the students will attend a six-week college-like program at Miami University Hamilton. In addition to traditional academic subjects, the students will learn about fitness, nutrition, current events, and civic engagement.”
The grant will impact the 3,000-student Miami University Hamilton regional campus in that a significant portion of its enrollment comes from city residents.
Cathy Bishop-Clark, Interim Dean at Miami Regionals — which also includes Miami University Middletown and the Miami Learning Center in West Chester Twp. — said the regionals are “open admission, meaning that our doors are open to any student with a high school diploma or GED.”
“However, this also means that some students haven’t quite developed the skills necessary to succeed in an educational environment,” Bishop-Clark said.
“This grant takes steps to help high school students in our community develop those skills early, so that they can be successful in high school and, hopefully, in college. And so we are very excited to partner with Hamilton Schools, as we are both in the business of transforming lives,” she said.
The grant’s impact extends beyond the Miami Hamilton campus and furthers the recent economic and development momentum of Hamilton, according to Bishop-Clark.
“The city of Hamilton continues to experience transformative changes ranging from the new jobs at Barclaycard and StarTek and the emergence of the South Hamilton Crossing, to the upscale new apartment complexes and small business popping up around the city,” she said. “The winning of this grant from the U.S. Department of Education continues that positive momentum by providing unique educational opportunities for those individual who are the future of our community.