Saul Ortiz, a senior at Free State High School in Lawrence, Kan., is a participant of the University of Kansas TRIO Upward Bound (UB). The program serves high school students from Wyandotte, Douglas, and Shawnee counties and provides academic advising, tutoring, campus visits, financial aid workshops, parent workshops, cultural experiences, and career fairs. Additionally, each summer the program hosts a four-week residential institute where students live on KU’s campus and take classes.
For Saul, the UB program is a family tradition. He first learned about UB when his cousins and older brother joined the program. Saul remembers being an 8th grader and listening excitedly as his brother talked about his experience living on the KU campus during the UB summer camp. During his participation, Saul’s brother regularly spoke to their family about college prep activities the program offered, including scholarship assistance and essay writing. Seeing his brother progress through the UB program, graduate from high school, and eventually attend KU inspired Saul to want to chart his own college path. When Saul got to high school, he asked his parents to sign him for UB because “it would be a great opportunity to learn new things, meet new people, and expand my learning experiences.” The family legacy has continued: Saul’s younger sister, who is now a junior at Free State High School, followed in her brothers’ footsteps and joined UB when she started high school.
Some of Saul’s favorite memories in the program are the UB college visits. He recently reminisced about the unique opportunity to visit colleges in Atlanta, Ga. and Houston, Texas. “I probably would not have gone to those campuses if it were not for this program and I could learn about them and see what they could offer me.”
Thinking back, Saul feels that the most important benefit to being in the program has been the networking opportunities. Because the program serves students across three different counties, Saul says he has been able to develop lasting relationships with people whom he would have not otherwise had the opportunity to interact with. “Even though we are from different grades, we come together as a family.” In addition to the friendships Saul has formed, he has also developed close relationships with UB staff. “They just want every student to feel comfortable with themselves. If you are having trouble in school, they go out of their way to find someone or something to make you a better student.”
Looking forward, Saul is grateful for opportunities UB provided and he is excited to continue the family legacy by enrolling in college next fall.