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Makai Lucas’ interest in criminal justice careers is a guiding light on his road to college. On his journey, Makai is receiving assistance from the University of Kansas TRIO Upward Bound Math and Science — Leavenworth/Turner (UBMS-LT). UBMS-LT is a federally-funded pre-college access program that provides academic support and college preparatory experiences for high school students. The program serves 60 high school students attending Leavenworth High School in Leavenworth, KS or Turner High School in Kansas City, KS.

Makai joined the UBMS-LT program at the end of his sophomore year at Leavenworth High School. During his first two years of high school, Makai recalled feeling burnt out and lacking the motivation he knew he would need to get to college. He says the UBMS-LT program was an opportunity for him to reengage with school and rekindle his motivation. A major source of that motivation has been the UBMS-LT staff. Makai recalls feeling an instant connection to the staff, who constantly pushed him to aspire for more and challenged him to get outside of his comfort zone. Additionally, the program has introduced Makai to several professional networks and given him the chance to form many close friendships. Makai summarized his experiences in the program, saying “Upward Bound is an opportunity to become even better than what you were originally.”

For Makai, one of the most meaningful aspects of the UBMS-LT program was the four-week residential summer program. During the program, participants live on campus at the University of Kansas and take classes. As part of the experience, Makai has been able to interact with college professors and current college students who serve as residence assistants (RAs). The RAs are a great resource for UBMS-LT students. Makai explained that they frequently talk about what college life is all about, explaining how they navigated the college choice process, how they chose their majors, and which classes they have taken throughout their college careers. Interacting with the RAs has made him realize “there are so many opportunities available to me in the future.”

With the help of UBMS-LT, Makai feels confident going into his senior year of high school knowing that college will soon become his reality. As a first-generation college student (i.e., no parents or guardians have earned a bachelor’s degree) he understands that earning a college degree will have an impact not only on himself but on his family too. Makai recognizes the sacrifices his mother has made to ensure that he is academically and financially ready for college. “It is going to mean a lot for my mom because she has been trying to get me to go to college since I was little.” Makai also hopes that his commitment to education will inspire other students in his Leavenworth community. “I would like to give back to my community and I plan to come back to see what I can do to help my community.”

TRIO | GEAR UP | CAMP | STEP UP — CEOP, building a legacy of learners and leaders through a commitment to educational equity. ceop.ku.edu | @CEOPmedia

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