Celebrating Students ’13: Alex Kuwada

This past summer, I spent seven weeks on the campus of Northfield Mount Hermon School in Gill, Massachusetts working for the Northfield Mount Hermon Upward Bound Summer Academy. Upward Bound is a federally-funded educational program that serves low-income, first-generation college-bound students. The summer academy I interned at brought in students from high schools in Holyoke, Springfield, and Franklin County, Massachusetts for an intensive six-week program in an academic and residential setting.  I was a dorm staff member in the male dorm and was the lead teacher of two classes, sophomore geometry and independent study in sophomore Algebra 1, among various other roles such as a tutor during study hall and the program photographer. The internship presented me with new experiences and challenges, especially as the only teacher in a mathematics classroom of 12 high school students. I enjoyed every minute of the six weeks the students were on campus. From seeing the proverbial light bulb switch on when a student mastered a math concept to playing board games with the students in the dorm lounge, the students lit up each of my days, while I felt like I was making a positive impact in fostering their growth as scholars.                                                                           Alex, second from right

While the Upward Bound Summer Academy gave me invaluable educational and leadership experience in a positive and enjoyable atmosphere, the value of the program to its students is unparalleled. These incoming high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors willingly and enthusiastically went through a rigorous academic and residential program during their summer. Their commitment to scholarly achievement and to paving their way to a bright future was inspiring, and it is all made possible by the NMH Upward Bound program, which continues throughout the school year through tutoring and activities, and provides the students with priceless rewards. One day during the summer academy, various NMH Upward Bound Summer Academy alumni returned to share their experiences post-graduation from the program. The alumni, however, did not dwell on their current achievements, but on the skills they gained from and the doors that were opened to them through Upward Bound.

This summer, I gained skills in teaching and counseling students, but equally importantly I gained insight into the importance and value of the Upward Bound program. The Upward Bound program as a whole is at risk due to major cuts in federal budget cuts. More than focusing on my experience, I would like to stress the importance of this program to its scholars and to raise awareness of its uncertain future. The program song ends with this message: “So let’s rise to the occasion with each dawning of the sun– As we strive for the future and the best in everyone.” The Upward Bound program gives the opportunity to its inspiring and motivated scholars to rise to the occasion and truly to find the best in themselves.