Upward Bound (UB) writing teacher Mariel Novas ’06 compares writing to ballet or Latin dancing. “Like dancing, your stories should flow nicely,” she tells her students. Whether students are dancing merengue to demonstrate transitions in writing or engaging in a debate using the rules of a five-paragraph essay, Novas’ writing workshop engages students in exciting, active activities to help them become better writers.
Like all UB classes, students are challenged to reach toward their highest potential. Novas does not solely teach grammar and writing, she motivates students to think critically. She challenges them to build their vocabulary and to become articulate speakers.
Novas is one of five Nobles graduates teaching at UB this year—she has been with the program since 2006 beginning as a program assistant. Today she is the writing teacher and the assistant director of UB.
What keeps her coming back to UB after six years? “The intense relationships and the bond that you build with the kids are unbreakable,” she says. “This is the most cohesive, loving community that I’ve been a part of as a professional.”
UB’s summer program is home to 54 students for six weeks. The curriculum emulates the Nobles experience as students take rigorous courses such as physics, calculus, chemistry, English and history, taught mostly by Nobles faculty or graduates.
Novas explains that the rigor of the program is a difficult transition for many students especially for those who are accustomed to excelling in their schools. “This is an extremely bright group of kids,” she says. “But they come here and this is the first time they are struggling.” Time management becomes one of the most important lessons taught.
“They are amazed at how small the classes are,” says Marcela Maldonado, director of Upward Bound. “They are amazed by the teachers. And they often say, 'I had more homework in the summer in one class [at UB] than in a whole school year.’”
But it’s not all work and no play. Both students and counselors live on campus five-days a week. They begin their day with morning Assembly and are exposed to a variety of extracurricular activities. On Thursdays, students attend fieldtrips off campus—often ones that incorporate a cultural experience.
They spend the last week of the program in a weeklong college tour. This year, students visited colleges in Maryland and Washington, D.C., including University of Maryland, Georgetown University and Howard University.
Nobles Upward Bound, co-sponsored by UMass Boston, is one of a few Upward Bound programs in the country hosted at an independent school. The public/private partnership is 22 years strong.