LA PUENTE, CA – Four Bassett High School rising sophomores are preparing for college through a six-week, residential summer program at Claremont’s Harvey Mudd College, where they are strengthening collaboration skills through activities in math, chemistry and literature.

Their stay is part of Upward Bound, a three-year college-readiness program that helps students from across the San Gabriel Valley prepare for the SAT and hone college application essays.

Bassett High student Kevin Nguyen, who aspires to study medicine, found the SAT preparation classes the most beneficial.

“Upward Bound helps us prepare and know what we’re going to face so that we’re ready to take the test,” Nguyen, 14, said. “I can experience college life, and when I ask for help I get it.”

The program, which runs June 20 through July 29, is packed with academic enrichment activities in addition to lessons in main areas of study, including computer science, dance and Spanish. Students have a blend of independent and group work, with a three-hour study hall.

Cell phone use is restricted the entire day, and recreational activities give students the opportunity to bond with their peers and unwind from studying. The program includes students from Garey, El Monte, Mountain View and South El Monte high schools.

Bassett High student Anthony Orozco, who plans to become an engineer, saw the improvement his brother made in the program and was inspired to become stronger academically and socially.

“I want to get accepted to college, so I applied for this program,” Orozco said. “I really understand what to do for the SAT and I like interacting with people from the other schools.”

Excursions take place every Thursday when students participate in a community service activity in the morning and explore different areas, such as a local botanical garden and Dodger Stadium. The culminating expedition is a four-day trip to Utah’s Zion National Park, where students will camp, hike and participate in peer-building activities.

All staff are former Upward Bound students, including two Bassett High graduates, Carmen Jauregui, a 2012 graduate, and Ricardo Escajeda, a 1998 graduate. They participate in daily meetings discussing students’ challenges and possible solutions. Tutors take student observation notes during the courses, which the students receive at the end of the week to respond to. Students then meet with their mentors to discuss the week.

Escajeda has worked with Upward Bound for 16 years, with eight as a site coordinator.

“Upward Bound helps to build the students’ academic and social skills to be high achievers in high school,” Escajeda said. “We motivate the students to be successful and help them prepare and plan for college so that they can see it as an obtainable goal.”

During the second and third year of the program, students can apply for internships at UC Davis, UC San Diego and Georgetown, in the areas of science, history and politics, and literature. Upward Bound students have gone to Princeton, Harvard and Georgetown.

“Our partnership with Upward Bound provides valuable life experiences for our students to grow and explore potential careers,” Bassett Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Alex Rojas said. “Our District is committed to providing opportunities that will prepare our students for colleges and careers.”

Bassett Unified has partnered with Upward Bound for 40 years. Bassett High 9th-, 10th- and 11th-graders who come from low-income families and/or are first-generation college-bound students are eligible to apply to the Harvey Mudd College Upward Bound Program. Students who are interested in the program can send an e-mail to or call (888) 879-2739.


BASSETT_UPWARDBOUND1: Bassett High School rising sophomores Eduardo Perez-Arteogo (right) and Anthony Orozco (left) review a Chemistry chapter while using new studying techniques through Upward Bound at Claremont’s Harvey Mudd College.

BASSETT_UPWARDBOUND2: Bassett High School rising sophomores Kevin Nguyen (left) and Anthony Orozco (right) take a break from studying and learn how to salsa dance, as part of a six-week, residential summer program, Upward Bound, at Claremont’s Harvey Mudd College.