By Angel Ulmer

As a middle school student, Saasha Jones enjoyed the GEAR-UP program and later Upward Bound as a Brainerd High School student.  Although both of these federally funded TRIO programs were designed to encourage young students from disadvantaged backgrounds to prepare for college, Jones wasn’t sure higher education was for her.  Then she realized she had a higher GPA than some of the UTC student mentors she met through Upward Bound.

Saasha Jones

Saasha Jones

Upward Bound mentors gave Jones a first-hand look at the college experience and they explained financial aid opportunities.  The program also provided a summer enrichment component.

“As a high school student in the summer time there were other places I could be and other things I could be doing, but there were people in that program who cared about me and could help me get to college and succeed in college. The exposure was awesome, living in the dorm, finding my way around campus to classes and managing my own independence.  I could not have learned that anywhere but Upward Bound,”   Jones explained.  “The biggest benefit of Upward Bound was having people around me who expected more from me and constantly pushed me to do better.”

During her undergraduate orientation she credits Booker Scruggs, the former director of Upward Bound, for personally walking Jones to the Student Support Services office.  There, she met staff and peer mentors who foster a positive academic climate supportive of the success of students.

With the assistance of this helpful group, Jones said she learned better study skills.  She became a peer mentor herself and a work study student; she studied abroad with the program and she is currently a graduate assistant and administrative assistant.    She graduated in May 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.

As she received her M.B.A. in December 2013, Jones was thankful for the support she received from many TRIO programs.  She says her family was also extremely encouraging.

“My ultimate goal is to own an after-school program which consists of tutoring, mentoring, and offers ACT and SAT prep—a very safe environment for kids,” Jones said.

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