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New Upward Bound director plans to secure three grants

BY CHASTITY DILLARD | JUNE 17, 2011 7:20 AM

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For her first summer as University of Iowa’s Upward Bound director, Dana Thomann has her plate full of plans for a better future.

The program, which is part of the UI Center for Diversity and Enrichment, prepares students of low-income or first-generation status for college with ACT preparation, cultural activities, and other events.

“I was a low-income/first-generation student myself,” she said. “I want to help students understand that it is not something to be embarrassed about. It’s something to be proud of.”

The program runs on $500,000 a year and brings in Iowa high-school students from Columbus Junction, Davenport, Muscatine, and West Liberty. The students meet weekly during the school year, leading up to its summer program.

This summer, Thomann plans to tackle writing three grants, a big task compared with the lone grant usually filed each year.

“I want to be able to serve more students,” she said.

For her, more stability in staff and a bigger presence in the community is very important as well.
Available grant money only provides for 99 students, but this year, the program was able to find additional money through the Center for Diversity and Enrichment to provide for 112 students.

Other campus organizations are showing support, as well.

This year, Upward Bound was written into two grants — Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities and Iowa Geological Survey.

Nevertheless, the past year was a bit shaky for the new director.

“I feel like I haven’t become the director yet, because I am trying to fill in the gaps,” Thomann said. “We’ve been understaffed for a year now.”

With her previous position still open and a loss of a full-time counseling coordinator, pressure is high.

Still, the office pushes forward with the help of temporary staff.

And for Thomann, the UI Upward Bound program is in “a spot where there is a lot of possibility.”

“Everything is really, really thriving” she said. “Students just want to stay in the program.”

Thomann said retention rates have greatly improved, with students staying in the program and a “mile-long waiting list.”

UI sophomore Catherine Martinez, 19, was a part of the program for four years before attending the university. This summer, she is back with a new role in the program.

“I really grew a passion for the program,” said Martinez, who supervises the students in the residence halls this summer.

Michael Torres is in his fourth and last year in the program.

“I love how people from different communities intermingle,” Torres said.

The 18-year-old is now in the bridge program, an eight-week program in which incoming college freshmen have the opportunity to take a college class before starting school.

The Iowa State University freshman, who will major in mechanical engineering, did most of his college planning throughout the Upward Bound program.

With a new class bound for fall, the program hopes to build its image in the future.

“I want to be really organized and professional and not seen as the last-minute group,” Thomann said.


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