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RIC Upward Bound Program Graduates 51

Upward Bound program director Mariam Boyajian smiles at new graduate Kevin Argueta

Upward Bound program director Mariam Boyajian smiles at new graduate Kevin Argueta

New alumni of Rhode Island College’s Upward Bound program were encouraged at their graduation Thursday night (June 6) to be advocates for change and role models for their successors.

“With the skills you have now, you have the ability to change someone’s life,” said Steven Corrales, keynote speaker and a 2007 program graduate. “It’s up to us, who have been fortunate in making a few right decisions, to care for those who might make decisions they’ll regret.”

Corrales, who earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and a master’s degree from Brown University, said his Upward Bound experience has made him stronger.

 “I truly do not see how I could have managed (life’s) challenges without Upward Bound,” Corrales said, adding that there were many times he questioned why he chose to give up Saturdays and summer days to participate. “I stopped questioning my decision after my first day in college and haven’t questioned it since.”

Corrales now works as an operations associate at Blackstone Valley Prep and is a member of the Central Falls City Council and the Progresso Latino Board of Directors.

Corrales’s academic and professional success is a prime example of what Upward Bound aims to do: increase high school and college graduation rates among low-income students in targeted geographic areas.

It’s also the kind of success the 51 members of the Class of 2013 could achieve, Corrales said, if they continue to make the kind of smart decisions they made when they joined the program.

Gary M. Penfield, vice president of student affairs at RIC, also addressed the students, saluting their hard work and dedication. “We applaud each of you for taking the path that originally may not have been popular,” Penfield said. “Our hope is that we have helped you become stronger in character and in academic reach.”

Graduate Kevin Argueta, valedictorian at Pawtucket’s Shea High School, was awarded $3,500 in scholarships, including Upward Bound’s top scholarship, which he will use next fall when he enters Brown University to study engineering.

Argueta said he credits Upward Bound with helping him achieve his Ivy League dream.

“I went (to Upward Bound) for college preparedness,” Argueta said. “The more you can be prepared, the better. I wasn’t going to turn that down.”

During the ceremony 20 students were recognized for having perfect attendance and 21 students were recognized with academic honors for having a cumulative grade point average of 3.25 or higher.

Upward Bound also awarded Eva H. Neira, former executive assistant of student affairs at RIC, with its Outstanding Service award.

Ninety-eight percent of the 2013 class has been accepted into a higher educational program, according to program director Mariam Boyajian.