UVA Wise Receives $2.1 Million Federal Grant to Help College-Bound Students

Carson Fuller
Carson Fuller
Photo by Mark Robertson-Baker II

When Clintwood native Carson Fuller was a high school student, he knew he wanted to go to college but wasn’t quite sure how to go about it.

A friend’s older sister told Fuller about the Upward Bound program at UVA Wise. The former Ridgeview High School student applied and spent three years in the program. When he joined UVA Wise, he had already earned enough college credits to start his undergraduate career as a sophomore.

Now, Fuller is a rising junior, a communications major and plays the bass drum, as he did in his high school band, for the UVA Wise Highland Cavalier Marching Band.

Fuller works at the College’s post office, and was recently elected president of Lambda Pi Eta, the communications honor society.

“Without the program I don’t know if I would have actually gone to college. If I had, I would probably be in debt right now. Together UVA Wise and Upward Bound helped me with scholarships and financial assistance. Not only did they help me come here, they’re helping me stay here,” says Fuller, who works with the Upward Bound program and expects to graduate in 2024. Being in Upward Bound also qualified him to participate in the federally-funded Student Support Services TRiO program. Part of the Academic Support Center, the program provides tutoring, financial literacy, workshops and academic advising.

For 56 years, the Upward Bound program at UVA Wise has been providing skills and support to help students successfully complete high school and achieve their dream of a higher education. To date, nearly 3,000 students like Fuller have participated in the program here in Southwest Virginia.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Education awarded UVA Wise with a new $2.1 million grant to continue the Upward Bound program for the next five years. The program provides opportunities for participants to succeed in their pre-college performance and ultimately in their higher education pursuits.

“The Upward Bound program is an example, among many, of how we support the high school students in our region,” said UVA Wise Chancellor Donna P. Henry. “This program offers students opportunities they might never experience otherwise and these opportunities result in their successful graduation from high school and acceptance to the college of their choice and, of course, UVA Wise is the best choice.”

To qualify, high school students must come from families in which neither parent holds a bachelor’s degree, or they also must meet income eligibility requirements.

This year, students will be selected for the program from Central High School, Eastside High School, Ridgeview High School and Union High School. The program serves 80 students.

“We are excited to have received the renewal for the Upward Bound grant and to be working with our partners in the local high schools,” said UVA Wise Upward Bound Program Director Shelby Roberts. “The program will provide needed resources and support for many first-generation students to pursue post-secondary education.”

“The biggest thing for me was how personal the program is,” Fuller said. “If you have a question, you ask them and they will help you. If they don’t know the answer, they will find someone who can answer it.”

The program provides participants with high school and college academic advising, workshops on study and test-taking and life skills as well as SAT and ACT preparation. They also receive assistance with college applications and financial aid.

Fuller really appreciated the help he received in signing up for, studying for and taking the SATs.

“They helped you with time management and how to study better. We even took a test to see ‘what kind of studier you are’ and learning those things about yourself are really helpful,” Fuller said.

Upward Bound students also receive tutoring and academic instruction in core subjects including mathematics, foreign language, literature, composition and laboratory sciences. They go on college tours, local and out-of-state cultural field trips and social events, and take summer classes for college credit.

Fuller fondly remembers his first big out-of-state trip to Chicago, where he rode his first rollercoaster.

“It was mind blowing! That was the biggest trip I had taken up until that point. Chicago is a lot bigger than Clintwood and seeing how many different people and all of the different cultures there were was an experience I would have never have had otherwise. It changed my world view,” Fuller said.

The best moment of the trip, he said, was going to the top of the legendary 108-story skyscraper, the Willis Tower, formerly Sears Tower.

“Being up that high and seeing the whole city at night—with all the lights were on in the city—was awesome,” he said.

Another great trip was to Philadelphia and experiencing Amish country. His favorite local trip was to the Christmas Tree Festival in Big Stone Gap.

“I loved it because I got to see the culture of the area. Seeing all the different trees helps you see how diverse the people are here. It was wonderful to see,” Fuller said.

And Fuller met some of his best friends in the program who have now attended George Mason University, Harvard, Virginia Tech and, of course, UVA Wise.

For information about the Upward Bound program at UVA Wise, contact upwardbound@uvawise.edu or call 276-328-0175.