NOTICE : Nov. 28 - Holiday office and power outage closures. Click for details.

Upward Bound graduation: moving up and giving back

Graduates and their families view a video montage of photos from the students' time in the Upward Bound program.

Graduates and their families view a video montage of photos from the students' time in the Upward Bound program.
Follow your ambitions, achieve success, but remember to give back to your community.

RIC President Nancy Carriuolo presents
Ramon Betances, Jr. with a diploma.
That was the message to the 22 graduates of Upward Bound at RIC. The college preparatory program for high school students held its 2009 commencement ceremony on June 1 in Alger Hall.

Graduates list


Nancy Carriuolo, president of RIC, congratulated the first class of Upward Bound students under her administration, and the 43rd class overall, encouraging them to “move up and give back.” She reminded them of what they have learned through the Upward Bound program: attend classes, study hard, ask questions, watch how successful people dress and act, and walk away from drugs and crime.


Keynote speaker Rosa Taboada
addresses the Upward Bound
graduating class.
The keynote speaker for the commencement, Rosa Taboada, a 1995 alum of the Upward Bound program, told students, “I know the struggles you have encountered and soon will. Overcome all odds and succeed. Show yourselves you can and will succeed. No one can extinguish your hunger for more.”

After graduating Upward Bound, Taboada attended Rhode Island College and obtained her BS in chemistry in 1999. In 2004, she received her PhD in organic chemistry from the University of Connecticut. Taboada is teaching a chemistry course at RIC this summer.

Mariam Boyajian, director of Upward Bound, explained the program is important to the education system because it gives low-income high school students who otherwise, might not aspire to attend college, access to opportunities that will help them succeed academically and prepare them for post-secondary school. Upward Bound offers instruction in fundamental and advanced coursework, counseling, tutoring and career development while giving students a supportive social atmosphere and exposure to multi-cultural activities through Saturday classes and a six-week summer residential and academic program.


Valedictorian Bryant Estrada with his parents.
Bryant Estrada, an Upward Bound graduate, was the recipient of the Target School System Scholarship ($500) for Central Falls, and the highest award ($2,000) from an Upward Bound Alumni Scholarship. In addition, Estrada is graduating from Central Falls High School as class valedictorian. In the fall, he will attend Brown University, studying psychology and pre-med.

“At the age of 7 or 8, I was diagnosed with epilepsy. Because my case was mild, I wanted to help others who had it worse than me. That’s why I chose to go into pediatric neuroscience,” Estrada explained.

“Upward Bound has really prepared me and taught me the life skills I need and it helped a lot through the college process,” he said. Estrada explained the counselors, in particular, Claudia Erazo-Conrad, were very helpful in guiding him through the college process.


Mariam Boyajian, right, director of Upward Bound, watches as Pat O’Brien, school
counselor at East Providence High School, awards Jeyavathsala Kanagaratnam
a Target School System Scholarship.
Pat O’Brien, guidance counselor at East Providence High School, spoke about supervising Jeyavathsala Kanagaratnam, a winner of the Target School System Scholarship, throughout the program. “Jeya is a natural hard worker, but the Upward Bound program gave her the tools, motivation, and support to be successful.”

Kanagaratnam said Upward Bound, “challenged me to be determined to succeed. The program was a great guide and I was able to learn about a lot of different cultures and I experienced more diversity than most people are exposed to.”

Kanagaratnam is planning to attend URI in the fall as an international engineering major.

Guy Alba, guidance counselor of Providence, handing Gloria Roberts her Target School System Scholarship said, “There are some things that never go out of fashion – hard work and academic rigor.” Roberts will attend RIC in the fall.

Another winner of the Target School System Scholarship, Reena Mistry of Shea High School in Pawtucket, is enrolled in the URI Nursing program and will begin this fall.

Students who achieved outstanding success within the program were also awarded the Mary Juskalian Upward Bound Scholarship, Michelina Doretto Santos Upward Bound Scholarship, and John Nazarian Upward Bound Book Awards.


Upward Bound grad Maribel Pedroza, left, and Michelina Doretto Santos.
Pedroza received a scholarship in Santos’ name at the commencement.
Kanagaratnam, Maribel Pedroza, and Gloria Roberts, were given a certificate for perfect attendance. Students with a GPA of 3.25 or higher wore gold ropes to symbolize their honorable academic performance. Special academic recognition was given to students with the highest GPA. Kanagaratnam and Lyz Kayla Alexandre each graduated with a 3.42 GPA and entered the Upward Bound program as freshmen. Estrada, who joined the program as a sophomore, graduated with a 3.94 GPA.


Cynthia Fusco, former
personnel aide for Upward
Bound, was honored at
the graduation ceremony.
Boyajian also presented two outstanding service awards to members of Upward Bound who are leaving the program. Cynthia Fusco was honored for her work as a personnel aide for over 12 years, and Joseph Costa, former director of RIC’s Student Support Services and Preparatory Enrollment Program, was recognized for his 38 years of service to the college.


Students receiving scholarships included, from left: Maribel Pedroza,
Bryant Estrada, Jeyavathsala Karagaratnam, Gloria Roberts, Reena
Mistry and Lyz Kayla Alexandre.
Keynote speaker Taboada gave students perhaps the most compelling advice: “Pick a cloud in the sky, any cloud, and place your success on that cloud. Now paint it with your actions and accomplishments. Learn to work independently and with others. And don’t forget to give back to the community who saw you grow.”

Upward Bound staff, scholarship committee

View Photo Gallery