Downward Bound?

Directorial changes plague UC Berkeley program

Winnie Looc, Guest Writer

UC Berkeley Upward Bound is a program designed to help low-income high school students prepare for and pursue higher education. If you join Upward Bound, during the school year, they provide you with Saturday classes in your core classes (e.g., math, science, and English) so you have the opportunity to ask questions and better your understanding of the material you are going over in school. Tutoring is also available Monday through Friday for those struggling in their classes. From Oakland High, there are currently 16 students enrolled in this program.

In the summer, students will have the opportunity to spend 6 weeks on the UC Berkeley campus, and experience dorm life while attending classes on the campus itself. In addition to that, the staff take time out of their lives to plan and accompany you on long and short distance trips for your benefit.

This program has assisted many high school students on their path to college. Various students have been admitted to prestigious schools such as M.I.T and Stanford. They have gotten into college and succeeded thanks to this program. But what happens when things start to change? What happens when it is not in the director’s best interest to help students? What happens when staff is being cut, along with all our opportunities?

When our former director, Keith Hori, retired, Joe Omega was appointed director of our Upward Bound program. But he was stripped of the role when Marsha Jaeger, the Executive Director of CEP, hired Norris Sanders to take Omega’s place. Unfortunately, Sanders passed away because of health problems. Jaeger decided to then appoint herself as the director of our program.

Ever since Jaeger took over as director of Upward Bound, things have been changing at a rapid rate. Upward Bound’s funding comes from a grant that is to be renewed every 4 years. That has always been the case. The latest grant is to end in 2013, but Jaeger has already begun to change things according to the the points she mentioned in the grant proposal she wrote. Usually, all of the staff works together on the grant proposal together, but this year, Jaeger wrote it herself because the staff refused to write it. The staff members and Jaeger had different mindsets, and they were unable to come to a mutual agreement. Jaeger wanted to eliminate one counselor, and if the staff were to help write it, it would be like saying they agree with these changes, but they didn’t.
Upward Bound has no relationship with any other program that goes on in the Berkeley campus, but Jaeger insists on having our current Upward Bound office shared with another program called EGC. EGC currently has an office right across our office. Why take that space away from them and have them move into another space occupied by another program? Our office space is already cramped up; why go through so much trouble to remodel it?

One of our counselors, Thomas Nishi, is being transferred to a middle school, which means he will no longer be a part of our Upward Bound family physically. Nishi, along with all the other staff, has been working for Upward Bound for years; he is experienced and cares about the students. Why is he being taken away from us?  In Upward Bound, there were only 2 counselors to begin with — Nishi and Hazel Amina. With Nishi being transferred, that leaves only one counselor to handle all the students. That many students, and only one counselor? That doesn’t sound right.

This transfer is not the result of budget cuts, seeing as how the budget has not yet run out, and our budget is been the same as it always has been.

Upward Bound teaches us to stand up for what we believe in, and question everything we are told. Nishi is a great example of that.  Upward Bound staff and students believe that the only real reason for Nishi being transferred is that he took matters into his own hands and requested a copy of the program budget through the Freedom of Information Act, after he was denied access to this. Jaeger has stated before that there was no more money left in our budget. She also cut educational trips such as the trip to Washington D.C., where students visit the Capitol and learn about historic monuments. Nishi wanted proof of this: if there was no money, he wanted to see that there was no money. But Jaeger did not give him the right to this information.

In an additional complication to our program, our activities coordinator, Jennifer Guevara, is only going to be working 50% starting August 1, and 40 new students have been admitted into the program, for a grand total of 167 students.

All of this results in more work for our remaining core staff, fewer activities available for our benefit, and fewer instructional days. A program originally created for the students, to help the students and inspire them, has been deteriorating.

To Jaeger, Upward Bound is no longer about the students. Instead, it is about money and power. This affects everyone–current students, their siblings, staff, and their families. Upward Bound is and has always been for its participants. If that’s the case, then shouldn’t all of us have a say in all of this? Shouldn’t those planning to join have a say as well? Upward Bound taught me to use my voice, to fight for what I believe in, and most of all, it taught me about justice. Without it, I wouldn’t know so much about the world, about college, or even about all of the corruption in the world.

Students have made numerous attempts to contact Jaeger by emailing her, but there have been no replies. She has declined any interviews.

We have until June 1 to do everything in our power to stop Jaeger from doing further damage to our program. As of right now, publicity is our best chance. There are not a lot of people who know about this situation. The students of Upward Bound have been sending emails to news stations, getting as many people to sign our petition as possible, and we even arranged a protest! If there is any way you can contact any news station, please do so.  Please spread awareness: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/do-not-transfer-tom/

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