Upward Bound Celebrates 50 Years! Part One

In this series, we will spotlight Upward Bound students, staff, and partners as we celebrate 50 years of the program at Appalachian State University. These conversations are meant to illustrate the legacy of the program on some of the many western North Carolinians impacted by Upward Bound. This is the first post in our series. To read more about the golden anniversary of Upward Bound, visit our website

Upward Bound was established as part of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 signed into law by President Johnson. It became one of the nation’s first college access programs, and over the past 57 years, over 2 million students have participated in Upward Bound nationally.  The Upward Bound Program at Appalachian State was established in 1972 and is designed to encourage 9th through 12th grade students in Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Freedom, McDowell, Watauga, and West Wilkes high schools to complete high school and enroll in, persist, and complete a program of postsecondary education. Eligible students are economically disadvantaged or first in their families to attend college. The Appalachian State Upward Bound Program has served thousands of  students since its inception. 

Students participate in services such as cultural enrichment opportunities, a program of advising, tutoring, and weekend academies during the school year, and an academically intensive six-week summer program. The Upward Bound Summer Academy typically brings more than 100 Upward Bound students to the Appalachian State University campus for a 6-week immersive college experience. Programming includes academic classes, service-learning, cultural enrichment activities, and college visits across the region. In addition,  Upward Bound students receive individualized assistance that includes locating and applying for scholarships, grants, and other financial aid to make paying for college a reality. All services are provided absolutely free of charge. Students are expected to remain with the program until graduation from high school. 

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Upward Bound at Appalachian State University, we want to highlight the importance and impact of the program. The posts shared during the next several months include candid conversations with people directly involved with Upward Bound as they speak to how the program impacted them personally. Our first conversation is with an Upward Bound alumnus, Kathleen Harb. She speaks about some of the amazing memories she has as a student in the program as well as during her time serving on the Upward Bound student staff at Appalachian State. 

Please describe your experiences with Upward Bound. 

All of my experiences with Upward Bound were uplifting and positive. Without the program, I know that I would not be where I am today. I had wonderful experiences throughout all of my years of involvement with the program with the academic coordinators, the students, and all of the other people involved that allowed the program to be so great. 

What years or how long were you affiliated with the program? 

I was affiliated with Upward Bound throughout my high school career as a student and throughout all of my undergraduate education as an employee where I worked as both an office assistant and a residential adviser for a total of seven years with the program (2013-2020). 

What are some memories you have of the program? What stories do you remember?

All of my other favorite memories are connected to the opportunity Upward Bound gave us to travel - we got to see so many colleges and universities, visit Washington DC, Baltimore, and New York City. All throughout these experiences, we were getting to know each other more and more and growing closer to one another. We learned about what life looks like away from home and we learned so much about ourselves as we envisioned ourselves living, working, and learning in all of these spaces. 

I remember staying the night at A&T and dragging our mattresses into the room with our friends that was connected to our suite because we swore our room was haunted and we didn’t want to sleep in there alone. After that, the room was filled with laughter and giggles all night long. I remember profusely sweating during our tour of ECU, getting excited about having our own thermostat in our room, turning it down to 60 degrees (because neither of us understood how cold that was), and freezing all night long. I still joke about this night with my UB roommate. And I remember all of the fun we had in our dorm at App playing paint twister, singing in the lobby, and hanging out with our Atom Group. I truly miss all of the wonderful times I shared with all of the people in the program!

What is the impact of Upward Bound on you? 

Upward Bound impacted my life in a myriad of ways. As a student, it gave me the opportunity to make lifetime friends, to experience educational and cultural events that I never would have had access to, and provided me with the necessary resources to be ready for college. As a residential adviser, I was able to see the same impacts on the students I was serving. It was so rewarding to be part of a program that provided a space for students to come out of their shells and become vibrant and unique individuals. 

What do you perceive the legacy of Upward Bound to be?

To me, the legacy of Upward Bound is the success and stories of the students who are impacted by the program. It is the students that were able to successfully complete their educational journeys and achieve their goals using the tools given to them by Upward Bound.

Kathleen Harb

Kathleen earned her Bachelor’s in Science Degree at Appalachian State University and is currently attending The Fred Wilson School of Pharmacy at High Point University. 


Kathleen Harb
Published: Nov 11, 2021 9:56am