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Reflecting on the Good Old Days in the Upward Bound Program

Ms. Joy Garcia Tien, one of my early mentors, wrote on her Facebook:

Reliving the years I worked at Millersville University’s Upward Bound TRIO Program after a surprise meeting with a number of my former students during a Vietnamese Tet Festival last night and conversing with a few others through messenger. I am filled with gratitude for the experience with the MU-UB students in the 1990s and those with whom I trained and worked through the years. We were all a work in progress then and still are, but the memories made are permanent and forever in my heart.

Still in awe how I survived (lol) living in the dorm and going on various trips with 60-75 middle and high schoolers then, supported by a wonderful staff of tutor-counselors, for a 6-week summer residential program. Designing/coordinating their monthly Saturday skill development sessions and job-shadowing program during the school year were a big undertaking, but have helped refine my counseling/teaching strategies and skills. God is good. I had a blast and count myself blessed for the privilege of working with a diverse group of staff and students, similar to what I have now at HACC. Look forward to reminiscing and to possible collaboration with some as we give back to the community.

Note: Proud of the Upward Bound students as they all are a success story, having reached adulthood and defying the statistics for those who come from low-income, first-generation families, or both. I look at success not merely by the degrees/rank/position they attain nor the amount of money they make in comparison to others, but by having overcome their unique barriers and challenges, and achieving contentment and a sense of purpose through raising a family and/or engaging in a career for which they are passionate about; consequently, enabling them to give back and become a legacy. I pray they are living the life God has designed for them. I hope that their story is just like mine—defined by my faith; not by the fears, limitations, and brokenness of the past. To God be the glory!

I was fortunate to have Ms. Tien as one of my mentors at the most critical time in my life. Ms. Tien, Ms. Cross, and other advisors and counselors had worked tirelessly to give kids from low-income family like myself an opportunity to pursue a college education.

I had many fond memories of Ms. Tien—she invited us to her beautiful wedding—but one particular incident I could never forget. In my last year in the program, we caused a bit of trouble. Although we were giving a college experience by living in the dorms, we had curfews because we were still middle and high school kids. When lights were out around 9 or 10 pm, we were supposed to be in bed. After things seemed to be quiet, counselors let us get out of our rooms for pillow fights. The boys would run upstairs to the girl’s dorm to smack each other with pillows. The fun got out of hand and the noise increased. We got caught. Some of the counselors were even terminated.

The next day we went to Ms. Tien’s class, she looked disappointed. Within 10 minutes, she broke down. Tears rolled down her eyes. At that point, I realized how much she cared about us and our future. I felt horrible. After that, I did not participate in any activity after thr curfew. I followed the rules and did what I was there to do.

In retrospect, it was a valuable lesson. I can’t thank her enough for what she had done for us. In contrast, I am so sorry for what we did to upset her.