About 40 high school students and graduates were told they could write their own success stories through the Upward Bound program.
People should be grateful that members of Congress chose to reinsert programs like Upward Bound into the federal budget, Kansas University's education school dean told participants of the program Friday.
"This is not the time to be cutting back on access to education," said Karen Symms Gallagher, dean of the education school. "Now, more than ever, students may need special programs like Upward Bound ... to help them combat the pressures and distractions that pull them away from school."
Gallagher spoke to about 40 students, their parents and several teachers attending the KU Upward Bound annual awards luncheon at the Adams Alumni Center.
The luncheon was the final event in the six-week college preparatory program, which provided classes, community service and cultural events to high school students and graduates from low-income families or who were potential first-generation college students.
The students, from Kansas City, Topeka and Lawrence schools, stayed in a KU residence hall during the program.
Gallagher said the budget that came out of the House of Representatives this spring would have eliminated funds for programs such as Upward Bound.
But, she said, funding eventually was restored by "enlightened" and "well-informed" members of Congress.
"For this we should all be grateful," she said. "After all, education is the best predictor of later success in life."
Gallagher said the original plan to cut funding for such programs -- which operate on more than 1,200 college campuses and serve an estimated 680,000 students -- was "grim news."
"Cay you imagine the hole that the loss of these programs would create?" she asked.
She cited a recent newspaper article that said of 2,422 students who began ninth grade in the Kansas City, Mo., school district four years ago, only 1,045 graduated this spring. That's less than 50 percent, she said.
"Admittedly, some of these students may have gone on to other schools, but that still leaves a huge number of students who simply disappeared, never to finish high school."
Hien Ly, a junior at Highland Park High School in Topeka, said he discovered learning and leadership skills through Upward Bound that he never knew he had.
"It helps develop skills that I would not have learned if I were at home vegetating," he said.