By Edgar De Leon
Edgar With Other Counselors
Coming from a poor, urban area of Massachusetts, I have seen the difference education makes in people's lives. I have come to see education as a tool for progress and a way to prosperity, but I have also understood the importance of urban education to be on a different plane. Education to urban youths is more than a means of achieving wealth, which is widely believed by many college students today. Education, for those in the inner-cities of America, is a path to survival- a way to separate oneself from the harsh realities that exist in low-income neighborhoods. The importance of education is stressed in the homes of these families, who view it as a method of achieving the American Dream and see it as the last hope for social progress. The worth of education is immeasurable to students who have goals and aspirations of one day taking their families out of the slums of America and in to a world where they are not surrounded by despair and gloom. Education is "a way out".
Despite the significance of education, many of these areas are unable to provide their students with the resources needed to achieve these goals. The consequences are the same seen on a nightly basis on news broadcasts: crime, drugs, poverty and unemployment. With the foreign crisis our country is currently facing, it is easy to overlook our domestic issues. However, our educational system, especially in urban communities, is troubling and has failed our scholars.
Since the age of 15, I have been fortunate enough to be a part of the Upward Bound Program. At first, the program appealed to me because it provided me with a refuge from the streets of my neighborhood, but it has quickly become an essential part of the person I am and has built the foundation for the individual I hope to become.
As a student, Upward Bound not only provided me with a foundation for my educational goals but also showed me how a group of dedicated individuals can change the course of a student's life. While many of my friends were falling to the obstacles that are prevalent in the inner-cities, I was receiving the support and encouragement I needed to break through the barriers of our economic and social system. Upward Bound propelled me as a student and gave me the tools I needed to achieve my educational goals. It is as a counselor and assistant director of Upward Bound where I have found the aspiration to dedicate my life to urban education. Aside from teaching academics, the summer program aims to form a community among students from all shapes and backgrounds. Students get a chance to enjoy their summers in a unique and fun environment. It becomes a learning experience both in and out of the classroom from learning how to live with one another to visiting universities all along the east coast, striving towards building a future. I have found that students from inner-cities can achieve their potential as long as they are surrounded by role models who are enthusiastic and committed. My students have amazed me with the sacrifices they continue to make and the devotion they show to the program every summer.
Edgar, Back Row With Cap, And Students In The Program
Although being a counselor can at times be very challenging, I am rewarded ten-fold by the interactions I have with my students. I cannot envision myself working with a more dedicated group of individuals. My aspiration is to use the experiences I have gained in the Upward Bound program into my professional career of teaching. In my future I will reminisce on my time spent during my summers at Upward Bound and will know that my dreams all began with a group of students who never even knew how much they truly affected me.
Edgar De Leon, Student in A&S, '08, History & Communications.